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Discussion Questions for ‘Less’ – The New York Times

7. The book alternates between Less’s trip in the present to memories of his youth — mostly memories involving nostalgia or regret. And yet the narrator tells us that Less also understands the pleasures of age: “comfort and ease, beauty and taste, old friends and old stories….” How does Less’s grappling with age play a role in the book? Is it something you can relate to?

8. In a scene at a party in Paris, Less is told that in fact he is not a bad writer, as he had come to believe, but a bad “gay writer,” in that he is not telling the narratives the gay writing community wants him to. What do you make of this critique?

9. In several countries, simply being around Less seems to make other characters sick. Why?

10. Arthur Less is self-deprecating throughout the book to a fault; in one of many descriptions he calls himself insignificant compared to other writers he knows, “as superfluous as the extra a in quaalude.” (Earlier, though, he asks if there is “any more perfect spelling” than the word quaalude “with that lazy superfluous vowel.”) Did you find these negative descriptors by Less funny or frustrating or silly or all of these? How does Greer complicate these descriptions by having some of them echo back?

11. A number of people try to tell Less about what happened at Freddy’s wedding. And while the wedding dominates his thoughts, he doesn’t listen to them. What is keeping him from hearing the story? What do you think (or hope) happened?

12. In the book, “Less” is always referred to by his last name, while Javier only by his first, and Robert Brownburn by both. Why do you think Greer chose to refer to the characters in these different ways?

13. What lines in the book made you laugh out loud?

14. Toward the end of the book, Less reunites with his supposed enemy and Freddy’s father, Carlos. When they meet, Carlos tells him that he believes that people’s lives are half-comedy and half-tragedy and that those just appear at different times. What do you make of this theory?

15. Were you surprised (or glad) to find out who the narrator was? Do any elements of the book change for you when you revisit them with Freddy as the narrator in mind?

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