Andrew Sean Greer
Once you’ve actually been in love, you can’t live with “will do”; it’s worse than living with yourself.
This book made me so much more emotional than I expected.
Following Arthur Less, a writer down on his luck, as he travels around the country to avoid the wedding of his ex, who is also his one-time-rival Carlos’s nephew. Things do not go as planned. Ever. Add in a complex relationship with a literary-genius ex and the question of the past vs. the future.
The writing of this book is both incredibly humorous and incredibly real: it’s a book that is at once deeply funny and deeply sad. The shifts in tone make the book as a whole feel more honest, more real.
I also absolutely love the meta-commentary on Odysseus, personally. Arthur Less is a low-selling author of one famous novel: an Odyssey retelling. In Less’ Odyssey retelling, though, the lead leaves his lover for his wife at the end, because that is what Less believes about the world: that love does not work out. Less is in itself an Odyssey retelling in which Arthur is Odysseus, traveling the world [to return to the person he has loved all along].
He has never seen another gay man age past fifty, none except Robert. He met them all at forty or so but never saw them make it much beyond: they died of AIDS, that generation.
A major focus of this book is Less’ fear of aging, and more specifically aging past his desirability. It takes a long time to parse through his deeper fears: Less is afraid to be happy with Freddy because he feels he wasted his own life with Robert; he doesn’t want a younger man to be his person, because he was that younger man. He feels Robert was the love of his life, so how could he have another one.
The thing is, though, the age contrast between them wasn’t actually the problem in their relationship: it was that Robert was the genius, and Less was the non-genius.
I wrote about 90% of this review and then found out that audreyhheart on Tumblr had made a bunch of these same points, but I also loved this: that Freddy is the only character in the book who isn’t an artist and the only one who untangles Arthur’s self worth from his work.
The thing is we live in a world where life sucks and people suck but we’re all able to come together to reach in the dark for love. And it’s so important to discuss the tragedy but it’s also important to discuss the romance, the small moments of human connection to be found in the ridiculous. Love is brilliant. Happiness isn’t bullshit. The thing is that it is so easy to give up on love, or happiness, because it does not feel like the right choice. But it is worth it, sometimes, to risk the expected for real happiness.