Title character Arthur Less is a has-been novelist whose greatest claim to fame is the man he dated three decades ago. Less has floated through his life avoiding serious commitments, but when his much-younger, sometimes-boyfriend leaves him to marry someone more dependable, Less is catapulted into a late midlife crisis. In his quest to have a reason (besides his broken heart) not to attend his ex's wedding, Less vows to say yes to every opportunity that crosses his path. Teach a writing course in Germany? Yes. Attend a ceremony in Italy for a literary prize he's never heard of? Yes. Take a slot as an artist-in-residence at a Christian commune in India after trekking through the Sahara for a friend- of-a-friend's birthday? Why not. And somewhere during his globetrotting, punctuated by his comically bad luck, Less learns to become more comfortable in his own skin and more sure of his future.
Can you call a book about a man turning 50 a coming-of-age novel? Despite already being a full-fledged adult, Arthur Less's journey feels like a bildungsroman. Students in Arthur's literature class call him Peter Pan because, even on the cusp of his 50th birthday, he acts much younger than his age - for better and worse. Too old to be young but too young to be old, he's left adrift as he tries to figure out how to find happiness. The narrative is quirky and full of self-deprecating humor, but it also has its share of profound, poignant insights. Greer's writing is lyrical and humorous and Arthur, while often in a muddle of his own making, is a likeable, relatable character readers can't help but root for.
Reviewed by ba, 09/17. Other reviews by ba.