About the Book

Book Protagonist: Arthur Less
Publication Date: 2015
Genre: Humor

Quotes in


By Andrew Sean Greer

'Less' is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that is praised for its philosophical value and poetic flow of words. Here are some laudable quotes from this interesting novel.

From philosophical questions about love to a lighthearted play on words, the story of ‘Less by Andrew Sean Greer has a lot of quotes to inspire and entertain its readers. In this article are selected quotes from the award-winning comic novel.


What is love, Arthur? … Is it the good dear thing I had with Janet for eight years? Is it the good dear thing? Or is it the lightning bolt? The destructive madness that hit my girl?

Zohra to Arthur in Morocco

The age-long question of what is love comes up in Less as well. Zohra, one of the friends the main character Arthur Less made in Morocco, was drunk on her birthday and ranting to Arthur about her love life. Zohra is heartbroken because Janet her lover of eight years left her for another woman. From Zohra’s rants, we see that what she shared with Janet was a stable and safe relationship where love is expressed in caring gestures like one partner taking the dog for a walk to allow the other partner to take a nap.

But after eight years, Janet falls in love with someone else and leaves Zohra. Janet claims the love with this new person is the type described in poems as the burn of a flame or an electric shock. This leaves Zohra wondering what love truly is and asking the questions in the quote above.

So many people will do. But once you’ve been in love, you can’t live with ”will do”; it’s worse than living with yourself

Less At First

Here, the quote talks about the protagonist and his love life. He has been in love twice in his life. Apart from those two people he has loved, there have been other people with good qualities that make them suitable to be his partner. But the only problem is that Arthur Less cannot find the crucial element of love in these people. And to him, settling for a romantic relationship without love is worse than being alone.

Prizes aren’t love. Because people who never met you can’t love you.

Robert Brownburn to Arthur Less

Here, Robert Brownburn had won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for one of his poems and was telling Arthur Less what he thinks about winning it. Robert was trying to let Arthur know that the numerous awards and prizes he won as a writer do not equate to love. According to Robert, those prizes and awards are impersonal and given to anyone who fits a predetermined requirement and not about love for the writer.


At ten, we climb the tree higher even than our mothers’ fears. At twenty, we scale the dormitory to surprise a lover asleep in bed. At thirty, we jump into the mermaid-green ocean. At forty, we look on and smile. At four and nine

Less German

This quote talks about the brave and adventurous things people do when they are at certain ages. Arthur Less knows what people of other ages do but wonders what he ought to be doing at his current age of forty-nine. A message from this quote is that the advancement of one’s age is no guarantee that one has all the answers.

How can so many things become a bore by middle age—philosophy, radicalism, and other fast foods—but heartbreak keeps its sting?

Less At First

This is a classic case of how some things change with time while some other things remain the same. Arthur wonders at the incredulity of how his feelings for certain things have waned over time but how heartbreak retains the same painful sting even at his advanced age.

Javier: Strange to be almost fifty, no? I feel like I just understood how to be young.

Less: Yes! It’s like the last day in a foreign country. You finally figure out where to get coffee and drinks and a good steak. And then you’ll have to leave. And you won’t ever come back.

Less French

This is from a conversation between Arthur and a guy he met in Paris called Javier. They were talking about the wonders of getting older, how you are hit with the rude awakening of having an older age just when you think you are getting a grip on how to be a certain age.

Life so often arrives all of a sudden. And who knows which side you will find yourself on?

Less German

The philosophy that nothing in life is ever guaranteed resonates with this quote. Arthur Less used the historical Berlin Wall as an analogy for this musing; you can go to sleep and wake up to find yourself on a side of life you never planned for.


I’m a writer. I put things very well.

Arthur Less

This is Arthur’s reply to Javier’s praise that he is good at using analogies to put things into perspective. Arthur’s reply implies that putting things into perspective is one of the fundamental qualities of a writer. This is one of the few times that the quirky and shy novelist Arthur Less sounds confident and assertive.

He has patched together that crazy quilt of a writer’s life: warm enough, though it never quite covers the toes

Less At First

This quote refers to writers’ finances. What the author is describing here is that writers make enough money to live an average comfortable life but not enough money for luxury.

Writers read other works in order to take their best parts

Less German

Here, Andrew Sean Greer is reiterating the saying that good writers are good readers. The protagonist of ‘Less‘ is a writer who reads voraciously and draws inspiration from books by other authors.

Feelings and Perception

That the mind cannot be trusted is a certainty

Less Moroccan

This quote is saying that our minds can deceive us into mistaking illusions for reality. We sometimes make bad judgments or wrong decisions when we follow the promptings of our minds without proper evaluation.

Twenty years of anything with another person is a success. If a band stays together for twenty years, it’s a miracle. If a comedy duo stays together twenty years, they’re a triumph. Is this night a failure because it will end in an hour?… It isn’t in us, it isn’t in human beings, to be tied to one person forever.

Lewis to Arthur Less

This was Lewis’s reply to Arthur’s exclamation that his marriage failed because it ended in divorce after twenty years. Lewis was convincing in his response that the marriage should be regarded as a success and not a failure. That something good should not be counted as bad just because it came to an end. To him, having twenty years of happiness with his spouse is enough to be thankful for, and it cannot be called a failure just because it eventually ended.

”You need to get an edge,” his old rival Carlos constantly told him in the old days, but Less had not known what that meant. To be mean? No, it meant to be protected, armored against the world, but can one ”get” an edge any more than one can ”get” a sense of humor?

Less At First

Here, the author asks the begging question of how possible it is for one to become what one is not. Arthur Less, even as a man approaching fifty years, is still very shy and sensitive and does not know how to be tough.


Are there love quotes in Less by Andrew Sean Greer?

Yes, there are love quotes in ‘Less by Andrew Sean Greer. One striking love quote in the novel reads: “Love isn’t terrifying like that. It’s walking the fucking dog so the other one can sleep in, it’s doing taxes, it’s cleaning the bathroom without hard feelings. It’s having an ally in life.”
This quote is found in the chapter titled “Less Moroccan.”

Why did Zohra ask about the meaning of love in Less?

Zohra was asking about the meaning of love because she could not comprehend why her lover with whom she shared a stable relationship for eight years could leave her for someone else.

What does the narrator think about the mind in Less?

The narrator thinks that the mind cannot be trusted. This is found in the chapter titled “Less Moroccan,” where Arthur Less was musing over his conversation with Zohra.

Onyekachi Osuji
About Onyekachi Osuji
Onyekachi is a lecturer of Public Administration and a Literature enthusiast. After gaining accreditation in English Literature, Onyeka analyzes novels on Book Analysis, whilst working as an academic and writing short stories.
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