Where do I begin? If I only I could give form to the feeling that has been gushing within me, you would know how overwhelming an experience it was. But as usual, I didn’t know where to begin and I kept waiting for the words to find their way out of the whirlpool of emotions. A month has gone by since then. So, maybe I should just begin by telling you how I never have had a great run with award-winning books. I don’t even buy them anymore. But, some books are different. They have a way of finding even the most unreasonable of readers like me and that was how Andrew Sean Greer’s ‘Less’ found me. It began as an impulsive buy followed by a lazy read on a rainy morning. But soon, I was to be entrapped in the magic maze of words. From one scene to another, from one country to another, I was going to travel along with Arthur Less, trying to figure out which shade of blue is the ‘Lessian’ Blue.
Less is just another writer. Soon to be fifty, gay and heart-broken, despite being careful. Less decides to embark on a trip after that unusual heart-break. With only lukewarm responses to his earlier works, he neither had any award to his credit nor much of a balance in the bank to boast of. So, it is only fair that he was excited that most of his travel was paid through various literary engagements. His first stop was in New York, where he was slated to interview a famous author. From there he was to travel through Mexico, Europe, Morocco and then reach India where he had planned to finish his next novel. His final stop was going to be Japan before he headed for home.
Unlike his love life, Less’s travel plans were sorted to the finest details, or at least that was what he thought. But as always, life had other plans for him. The mishaps begin right from New York and keep him company throughout the entire travel. Should I call them hilarious? Well, some might find it funny and might even laugh out loud about them. As for me, I was mostly worried for the guy and was secretly wishing for his miseries to end. However, I couldn’t help laughing out loud, when he arrived in India, especially after knowing what was waiting for his famed blue suit. I couldn’t tell if it was the familiarity of the country and its eccentricities or if I was getting too accustomed to his miseries, that I could finally laugh. Much to my relief, Less braves all the unpleasantness and surprises himself.
The surprises don’t just stop with Less. Andrew has been extremely generous that he has left a bagful of surprises for his readers too. I was particularly intrigued by two things. First, the author’s obsession with that specific shade of blue. I am going to take a long time to forget Less’s blue suit. Next, come the unconventional bonds that the characters share with each other. While it’s hard to believe such irrational intimacy can exist, the poignancy in Andrew’s narration convinces you otherwise. The biggest and best of all surprises for me was the narrator. When I finally got to greet the narrator, I knew there was no point in fighting those tears, back.
This is a book of love and it talks of love that ranges between an “earth-shattering feeling” to “walking the dog so the other one can sleep in”. It talks of love that finds you even before you realize what it means to be in love and love that walks out silently with only a kiss to remember. It talks of love that binds and liberates you in the most unnerving way and love that takes you home and tucks you gently into a blissful slumber.
Travelling with Less has been a warm and therapeutic experience for me and I am convinced that it will bring some sunshine into all its readers.