...[a] thoroughly delightful novel ... Greer is an exceptionally lovely writer, capable of mingling humor with sharp poignancy ... Greer is brilliantly funny about the awkwardness that awaits a traveling writer of less repute ... Whether he’s pining after an old lover or creeping along a ledge four flights up, hoping to climb through the window of his locked apartment, this is the comedy of disappointment distilled to a sweet elixir. Greer’s narration, so elegantly laced with wit, cradles the story of a man who loses everything: his lover, his suitcase, his beard, his dignity.
Less is the funniest, smartest and most humane novel I’ve read since Tom Rachman’s 2010 debut, The Imperfectionists ... Arthur’s wanderings as he makes his way from disaster to disaster are hilariously, brilliantly harrowing. But laughter is only a part of the joy of reading this book. Greer writes sentences of arresting lyricism and beauty. His metaphors come at you like fireflies ... Like Arthur, Andrew Sean Greer’s Less is excellent company. It’s no less than bedazzling, bewitching and be-wonderful.
...philosophical, poignant, funny and wise, filled with unexpected turns ... What makes Less such an endearing character is that he isn’t a miserable wretch but a sweet and guileless one ... Although Greer is gifted and subtle in comic moments, he’s just as adept at ruminating on the deeper stuff. His protagonist grapples with aging, loneliness, creativity, grief, self-pity and more.
Alas, Greer's subsequent work has consistently fallen short of the standard set by The Confessions of Max Tivoli, a sobering reminder that early success can be a mixed blessing. Reading Greer's most recent novel, Less, I found myself searching for evidence of genius, which I wanted to believe was still there, lurking somewhere between the lines. Instead, I found myself tripping over awkward phrases and ill-chosen metaphors in a work whose title turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy ... Everything here screams comedy, but somehow the joke never takes off. The problem, it seems, has less to do with the story itself than with the prose.
Greer’s use of language, dramatic irony, and a mysterious narrator casts Arthur Less as the unwitting hero in this comedy of errors. Throughout the novel, comedy takes the edge off more serious matters, as we follow Arthur through the Frankfurt airport under the influence of too many sleeping pills, attempting to teach a five week university course in his hilariously faulty ‘fluent’ German, and chasing wild dogs in India … It’s the combination of these three failures—loss of love, professional oversight, and aging—that sets him into such a tailspin that he packs up on this bumbling odyssey rather than confront them head on.
While such luminaries as Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers, and John Irving have praised Greer’s previous novels, including The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells (2013), Less is perhaps his finest yet ... Through numerous flashbacks, Greer signals his debt to Proust and paints a comic yet moving picture of an American abroad. As Greer explores Less’ lovelorn memories, he also playfully mocks the often ludicrous nature of the publishing industry. Less is a wondrous achievement, deserving an even larger audience than Greer’s best-selling The Confessions of Max Tivoli.
Greer writes beautifully, but his occasionally Faulknerian sentences are unnecessary. He is entirely successful, though, in the authorial sleights of hand that make the narrator fade into the background—only to have an identity revealed at the end in a wonderful surprise.