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Less is Lost by Andrew Sean Greer: Undeniably an enjoyable encore

It may not deliver quite the emotional range of its predecessor, but there is no better literary company than narrator Freddy Pelu

Less is Lost
Less is Lost
Author: Andrew Sean Greer
ISBN-13: 978-1408713372
Publisher: Little, Brown
Guideline Price: £16.99

The sequel to Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer Prize winning Less reunites us with the beloved Arthur Less. Our hapless protagonist is once again fumbling through life in a montage of bittersweet, comic escapades.

It is a risky enterprise attempting to recapture the magic of the original which garnered not only stellar critical acclaim but established Less as one of the great fictional characters of his time. The middle-aged, moderately successful gay author’s travails offered a delicious skewering of the writerly life and publishing industry but was also full of profundity and heart. Inevitably, the sequel suffers somewhat by comparison – our first introduction to Less had all the power and delight of surprise and this second adventure feels more like an extension rather than a deepening of the narrative.

This time, Arthur’s life is upended when a former great love dies and an unexpected financial crisis forces him to accept another series of literary jobs that force him to zigzag across United States – as fans of Less will come to expect, chaos ensues.

It is not necessary to have read Less to enjoy Less is Lost but the experience will be richly enhanced if you do read the books in sequence. If Less is a masterpiece, Less is Lost is undeniably an enjoyable encore. While it may not deliver quite the emotional range of its predecessor, there is no better literary company than Freddy Pelu, the omniscient narrator who recounts Arthur’s adventures from a position of knowledge and imagination.


Greer is a master storyteller who compels the reader to follow him with an easy confidence that belies the complex craft supporting his utterly unpretentious style. With a sleight of hand, he tackles the big questions of life with humour and grace – and leaves the reader subtly altered when he is done. Less teaches us that an easy life, free from incident, may also be free of poetry. That a different hue of happiness comes with survival. And that not all who wander are lost. Read Less to fall in love and then pick up Less is Loss to rekindle a favourite old flame.

Helen Cullen

Helen Cullen

Helen Cullen, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a novelist and critic