Don’t Write Alone | Interviews

Andrew Sean Greer Is Challenging the “Great American Novel”

Akanksha Singh interviews Andrew Sean Greer about his new novel “Less Is Lost,” finding humor in uncomfortable topics, and the pleasures of a fairytale ending.


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Akanksha Singh: Congratulations on a lovely sequel to .

AS: Unlike , which involves a trip around the world, is solely set in America, and we get a unique glimpse into small-town life. In the last novel, we got a sense of Less the novelist. Here, we get a peek into Less the human being; it feels a lot more intimate. Was this part of the reason you chose to set the novel in America?



AS: I noticed a map of you plotting Less’s travels on your website. I’m curious to know how you went about plotting both the narrative arc and the route Arthur Less takes.


AS: Wow! So what was your research process like, then? How did you pick the places Less stops in––did you refer to your trip journals?


AS: is so self-aware and so meta that you dismantle the idea of the Great American Novel while indulging the same clichés. Was this a conscious decision on your part?


AS: Unlike in , where the narrator is revealed toward the end of the novel, we’re repeatedly reminded that Freddy––a mixed-ethnicity gay man––is the narrator in this. Is he part of the reason we get such a wholesome view of America? Through Freddy’s lens, we’re made aware when Less is the only white man in the room or the only gay man in the room.

AS: Talk to me about how you confront uncomfortable topics as a writer. Writing about the tour of the plantation, for instance, or going to First Nations’ land––how do you get over your own biases? Did you self-censor?


Gone With the WindYouNow I can write about it because I know what’s funny is my anxiety about race

AS: Did the Pulitzer change much for you as a writer? Did you find yourself taking more risks with your writing?



AS: For a sequel, we don’t get a lot of the same characters we encountered in the first novel. Did you feel as though they had nothing else to offer?

AS: In a few interviews, you’ve mentioned that this is it for Arthur Less. How do you know when your journey with a particular character is complete?


AS: Lastly, this book does something I don’t think a lot of prize-winning novels do nowadays: It indulges the reader with an upbeat ending. As a writer and as a reader, why do you think that is? Why did you choose to give Less a fairy-tale ending?

Well, maybe there no division between books for children and adults