For someone who is only 47 and has won a Pulitzer Prize, Andrew Sean Greer certainly knows how to get inside the head of someone who is 50 and hasn’t. Less is, among other things, a novel about the aches and pains of midlife, real and imagined; its hero, Arthur Less, turns 50 in the course of the book. By a happy coincidence — or one engineered by The Spectator’s literary editor — while reading Less I too marked my half-century. (Send no flowers.) Reader, I laughed and I cried; this is a hilarious, heart-warming and thoroughly midlife-enhancing book.
Less is a failed novelist, or at least thinks of himself as one. When we first meet him, he is waiting to interview the famous science fiction author H.H.H. Mandern, onstage to celebrate the launch of his new novel: ‘In it, he revives his wildly popular Holmesian robot, Peabody’:
Why him? Why did they ask Arthur Less? A minor author whose greatest fame was a youthful association with the Russian River School of writers and artists, an author too old to be fresh and too young to be rediscovered, one who never sits next to anyone on a plane who has heard of his books.