Less means more

My younger daughter sent me the description about people like me, a book addict who owns a lot of unread literary books and cannot stop buying books.  I  have since learnt that I engage in tsundoku, a Japanese term for such book people .click

I am not keen to part with most of my books and I love to get books for friends who enjoy reading. It is such a joy and comfort to be surrounded by piles and piles of books. I am ravenous when come to books. A voracious reader, that is what I am.

At times due to my work, my reading is not as fast as I like it to be and yet I cannot stop ordering books. I look forward to going to my office knowing that books will be delivered there. After working hard on some files, I give myself a little time-out just to read a page or two of whatever fiction or non-fiction that  I carry with me in my car. I am happy to have some time alone with my books and a coffee.

Less written by Andrew Sean Greer is an endearing read.  Arthur Less is a novelist about to turn fifty. He did not publish until he was in his thirties and his first book was a moderate success but his latest book has been rejected by his publisher. ‘ He is 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.’ When Freddy Perlu , one of his ex-boyfriend of nine years is getting married, he decides to accept a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world as he does not want to go to the wedding.  From Mexico to Italy, France to India, Germany to Japan, he goes to  the events that most self -respecting authors would not attend and along the way, there were mishaps and misunderstandings that the readers will find hilarious and funny.  

Here is a description of Less by the mysterious narrator.

‘ Once, in his twenties, a poet he has been talking with extinguished her cigarette in a potted plant and said, “ You’re like a person without skin.” A poet has said this. One who made her living flaying herself alive in public had said that he, tall and young and hopeful Arthur Less, was without skin. But it was true. “ You need to get an edge,” he old rival Carlos constantly told him in the old days, but Less had not known  what that meant.’

By his forties, all he has managed to grow is a gentle sense of himself, akin to the transparent carapace of a soft- shell crab. A mediocre review or careless slight can no longer harm him, but heart-break, real true heartbreak, can pierce his thin hide and bring out the same shade of blood as ever. How can so many things become a bore by middle-age  —- philosophy, radicalism , and other fast foods —- but heartbreak keeps its sting?’

‘ Name a day, name an hour, in which Arthur Less was not afraid. Of ordering a cocktail, taking a taxi, teaching a class, writing a book. Afraid of these and almost everything else in the world. Strange, though; because he is afraid of everything, nothing is harder than anything else.  Taking a trip around the world is no more terrifying than buying a stick of gum. The daily dose of courage.’

Photo taken on 22 September 2008, Burgundy

When Less decides to take the voyage with the intent to mend his broken heart, he is desperate and your heart goes to him as he wrestles with aging, self- pity and loneliness. 

Andrew Sean Greer’s prose is beautiful and the story is peppered with humour. Less is a love story.  The ending is joyful and brilliant. It is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2018.

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