Less is more: Andrew Sean Greer's prize a big win for queer literature
Advertisement

Less is more: Andrew Sean Greer's prize a big win for queer literature

Less

Less by Andrew Sean Greer.

Less by Andrew Sean Greer.

By Andrew Sean Greer

As a man fast-approaching middle age, I clearly recall my teenage years furtively investigating the scant available queer film and literature options. I'd often wonder if I was more or less alone. The Western world has changed a lot since then, and representation on our big and small screens has very much improved, even though the Hollywood casting system still favours award-baiting straight stars and suspiciously few out-and-proud performers. Mainstream books by queer authors have also multiplied since the early breakthrough of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City in 1978, but they haven't accrued as much critical attention.

That changed this year with the stunning upset of Andrew Sean Greer's gloriously happy-sad, romantic-comic novel Less scooping the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Recalling Maupin's sweet-hearted, sassy spirit, it relays the hapless odyssey of struggling author Arthur Less. About to turn 50, he frets about his place in the grand American canon and is desperate to flee the impending wedding of his younger ex-lover. Less decides to accept all the random invitations in his inbox, resulting in a global misadventure which includes stops in Berlin, Paris and Kyoto, plagued with lost luggage and injuries both physical and spiritual. It's a simple yet deceptively smart novel, which manages to be snort-inducingly funny and elicit heart-swooning tears, often in the space of a paragraph.

The Pulitzer win is a triumph on two fronts: it's a strike against snobbery and a huge win for queer literature. Joining Barry Jenkins' sublime Oscar-winning film Moonlight in a hopefully sustained patch of queer creativity, its existence lights the way to an even brighter future where no one ever feels alone.

To read more from Good Weekend magazine, visit our page at The Sydney Morning Herald or The Age.