The Book Review

Andrew Sean Greer on Writing ‘Less’

Episode Summary

The novelist discusses his Pulitzer-winning comedy about the travels and travails of a heartbroken writer, and William Finnegan talks about surfing.

Episode Notes

For the next few months, we’re sharing some of our favorite conversations from the podcast’s archives. This week’s segments first appeared in 2017 and 2015, respectively.

Andrew Sean Greer won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for his comic novel “Less,” about a down-on-his-luck novelist named Arthur Less who embarks on a round-the-world trip to forget his sorrows. (Greer’s new novel, “Less Is Lost,” continues Less’s adventures in the same comic vein, this time setting him loose across America.) When “Less” was published, in 2017, Greer visited the podcast and told the host Pamela Paul why he had decided to write comic fiction after five well-received but much more serious novels: “I found funny things happening all the time, and they were always my fault,” he said. “Because I was the thing out of place, with terrible misperceptions about what was supposed to happen.”

Also this week, we revisit the New Yorker staff writer William Finnegan’s 2015 podcast appearance, in which he discussed his memoir “Barbarian Days,” about his lifelong love of surfing. “It’s all about this experience of beauty,” he told Paul. “You know, this certain kind of drenched experience and beauty — and the physical risks are very much footnotes.”

We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to