Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

This book is a fun read for the traveller; I wish Zoe could have read it.  My mother has been to every one of the countries the protagonist visits except Morocco, and she greatly enjoyed the descriptions of the places and people he meets.  Arthur Less goes from New York City to Mexico, Italy, Germany, Morocco, India, and Japan. 

The author provides some highly evocative similies, such as:  "The driver works the horn like an outlaw at a gunfight" (India).  He describes fighting (and eventually conquering!) the VAT refund system.  He presents deep questions, such as "What does a camel love?  I would guess nothing in the world..."  He gives us hilarious lingual misinterpretations, such as "There is a fence in my book.  You are to correct, please," and "Six greetings, class.  I am Arthur Less."  (If you know German you may be able to understand what he actually said that lead to these bizarre translations.  My Mom has lots of German so I imagine she was howling over these.)

There is plenty of other material in this book that is not related to travel, such as the difference between comfortable middle aged and crazy youthful love, which is handled with wisdom and empathy.  A major theme is the aging of the first full generation of gay men to survive AIDS.  This matters to me because one of my best friends in high school was gay, and died of AIDS along with so many of his compatriots who became ill before they knew what was happening and why. 


 

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