Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer-winning 2017 novel Much less is a frenetic and sometimes hilarious account of “minor American novelist” Arthur Much less navigating zany twists of destiny throughout a sequence of literary engagements throughout the globe. Much less bounces from Mexico to Morocco to India, jet-setting in a bid to distract himself from romantic turmoil again residence. Absurdity and playfulness are the crowd-pleasing hallmarks – and the identical is essentially true of the follow-up, Much less Is Misplaced.
Our narrator, Freddy Palu, is Much less’s boyfriend. He recounts one in every of Arthur’s weird interludes early on, in the middle of researching a journey piece. “For native element and color [Less] headed to a sizzling springs really useful by his lodge … He stumbled on the springs, peeled off his garments and settled bare into the pool … very quietly however startlingly … an unlimited moose got here out of the forest, walked over and sat beside him within the pool … Much less urinated freely in pure terror. And but, in these jiffy, as man and moose, they watched the setting solar, and Arthur Much less felt chosen … when it left him … when the moose-moment had handed … Much less accepted that he might survive something … to hell with doubt and fear.”
However “doubt and fear” can’t be jettisoned for lengthy; certainly, they’re the pillars of Much less’s characterisation. Anxiousness, as a lot as the rest, propels his picaresque progress by means of this road-trip novel. Rehashing the formulation of the primary outing, Much less is on a journey right here too, after an sudden dying and monetary oversights depart him in dire straits.
Nonetheless, as Greer notes, “quick turns Fortune’s wheel!” Issues lookup when Much less is commissioned to jot down a profitable profile of eccentric novelist HH Mandern – additionally featured within the first e book – and heads to Palm Springs. The infamous Mandern, “together with his rock-star behaviour”, precipitates a madcap chain of occasions.
Travelling in Mandern’s RV, and accompanied by “crazy-ass” pug Dolly, Much less passes by means of the Mojave desert to Santa Fe, up alongside the Mississippi, by means of Alabama and Georgia, to his residence city and past. Whereas an acidic wit within the vein of David Sedaris is ever current, Greer’s consideration to the sublimity of the altering panorama – “the intricate tooled leatherwork of a mountainside … the various bars of tangerine and coral that linger within the sky” – introduces softer notes.
Much less’s odyssey additionally includes a roving theatre troupe who’re staging one in every of his works. There are ambivalent run-ins between Much less and his estranged father as, nonetheless in pursuit of money, he begins a lecture tour.
As he travels, Much less encounters websites of a mythologised America: new-age communes, eccentric trailer parks. Sketches of sticky dive bars overseen by quick-witted bartenders enable Greer to ship up Much less’s self-conscious metropolitan sensibilities. In tandem with these screwball excessive jinks, the novel constantly evokes Much less’s insecurities about his literary abilities, in addition to Freddy’s misgivings about his typically solipsistic lover.
Like its predecessor, then, Much less Is Misplaced combines poignancy in Much less’s private life with gags to maintain us entertained (the one concerning the electrical razor and Much less’s unlucky pink sweater is side-splitting). Given the similarities, the reader may justifiably surprise: why resuscitate Much less?
Greer’s makes an attempt to provide his sequel distinction largely relaxation on an intermittent inquiry into the state of the nation, and the confounding brutality of the distant and up to date previous. Reflecting on the unpredictability of Much less’s adventures, Palu asks: “Who is aware of why something occurs in America?” Much less’s stop-offs embrace a go to to a plantation museum, with this strand of the textual content illuminating uncertainty about the way forward for a rustic whose historical past is so bloodied. The anxieties prompted by Much less’s acknowledgment that later life stretches earlier than him just like the California deserts he traverses are matched by Greer’s anxieties about what lies in retailer for america in its post-Trumpian, Biden-era malaise.
However this interrogation of Americanness and hypothesis about the place the nation may go subsequent really feel tepid and incomplete. Greer’s narrative by no means comes near answering Palu’s weighty query; romcom kookiness wins out in the long run. After all, an indeterminate slightly than shouty analysis of the present nature of the American challenge has its place in an ostensibly lighthearted novel. However plainly in Greer’s need to supply each levity and political profundity, one thing was misplaced certainly.