Review: ‘Less Is Lost,’ a funny and affecting U.S. road trip

Sep 19, 2022, 9:55 AM | Updated: 10:10 am

This cover image released by Little, Brown and Co. shows "Less is Lost" by Andrew Sean Greer. (Little, Brown and Co. via AP)

(Little, Brown and Co. via AP)

“Less Is Lost,” by Andrew Sean Greer (Little, Brown)

Andrew Sean Greer’s “Less Is Lost” is the highly anticipated follow up to his 2018 Pulitzer Prize winning novel “Less,” a satire about an American abroad who travels the globe from Mexico to Germany to Japan to avoid going to an ex-boyfriend’s wedding.

Like that earlier novel, which was lauded for its musical prose, “Less Is Lost” is affecting and funny — so hysterical at times you may find yourself laughing aloud.

This time, gay middle-aged author Arthur Less has launched a road trip across the United States with a black pug named Dolly in a camper van named Rosina, which recalls the name of Spanish adventurer Don Quixote’s horse — Rocinante.

Stopping at gigs he’s been invited to around the country — writing a profile about a science fiction writer, serving on a committee for a literary prize — his aim is to raise enough money to pay a decade of back rent on the San Francisco home of his late lover, the poet Robert Brownburn.

Like “Less,” this latest novel is narrated by Freddy Pelu, our hapless hero’s current boyfriend who shares the endangered home, known as the Shack.

The subsequent quixotic trip by Less across America’s heartland, from the Southwest to the mid-Atlantic, is about being lost and found, and connections between people and places. During his travels, Less visits a commune and Southern dive bars, rides a donkey into a canyon and sleeps in a teepee.

Along the way, someone who suspects that he’s gay asks if he is from the Netherlands.

In an effort to appear less “Dutch,” Less tosses his suit, grows a mustache no one seems to notice and buys wraparound sunglasses, a baseball cap and a cowboy hat, all to disguise his sexuality.

But across that wide U.S. landscape, Less finds he cannot escape himself, the estrangement with his father, and his complicated relationship with Freddy.

And after losing himself, Less is found.

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Review: ‘Less Is Lost,’ a funny and affecting U.S. road trip