Andrew Sean Greer on ‘Much less Is Misplaced’ and Exploring America


It was Labor Day weekend, and the author Andrew Sean Greer had simply arrived in Bangor, Maine, en path to a marriage—solely to be taught that the rental automobile he had booked to drive to the venue was nowhere to be discovered. How might such a factor occur? Maybe, Greer suspected, different vacation vacationers had been having an excessive amount of enjoyable on trip and hadn’t returned their autos but? (“Who cares! Journey disasters might be fantastic!” he lately wrote in an Instagram put up, describing a wholly unrelated snafu.)

Ultimately, he made it to the marriage—a prolonged Uber journey later. And after we acquired on the cellphone earlier this month to debate his new novel, Much less Is Misplaced (out September 20), it felt acceptable for this saga to rapidly come up in dialog. It was the type of factor, I assumed, which may occur to the novel’s protagonist, Arthur Much less. In Much less Is Misplaced, Arthur units off in a camper van (identify: Rosina) throughout the American Southwest and Deep South, accompanied by a curmudgeonly science-fiction author and a pug.

Much less Is Misplaced is a follow-up to 2017’s humorous, poignant, Pulitzer Prize winner Much less. However when Greer started engaged on what would grow to be Much less Is Misplaced in 2018, he didn’t initially envision it as a sequel. “I used to be writing a distinct novel, a road-trip novel, and struggling—as I usually do—with methods to inform it correctly,” he says. “I wished to speak about America, which may be very arduous to speak about.” The fish-out-of-water protagonist and wry, perceptive narrator of Much less provided a means into the story he wished to put in writing.

Right here, Greer discusses the street journey that impressed Much less Is Misplaced and solutions W’s Tradition Food plan questionnaire.

What acquired you curious about speaking about America on this novel?

Effectively, after the 2016 election, I assumed… I all the time begin a guide with what I’m afraid of, and I write towards it. So Much less, I used to be afraid of turning 50 and afraid of various sorts of affection. This guide, I used to be afraid of Alabama [laughs]. I used to be like, “Okay, then let’s go there.” So I rented an RV for six weeks and traveled by the Southwest and Deep South, simply following that novelist’s intuition. I like to be in uncomfortable, unlikely settings as a result of it appears like I’m having the proper reactions. I’m turning on my novelist’s ear and listening to these folks as an alternative of listening to myself.

How did you come away from that journey? Did it abate your concern or reinforce it?

It was arduous to suppose the way it was going to be humorous. This was earlier than the assault on the Congress and issues. I met lots of people in nice ache. We didn’t speak politics. I stored my similar rule that I had in Much less, which is that the joke is on Arthur Much less. It by no means ridicules the place he’s visiting. He’s the factor misplaced. If I preserve that rule, I can preserve a gentle tone. I’m not good at writing anger or polemics. However nonetheless, on this guide—possibly it’s hidden from readers slightly bit, which is on function—there’s a racial justice story, the fictions of whiteness. I hope that if I’ve a light-weight and sure joyous tone, folks get these messages within the background they usually come out slightly modified.

Was there something you noticed or skilled on that street journey that couldn’t make it into the guide, however you had been looking for a technique to make it match?

There have been a number of issues, particularly within the Deep South. I used to be adopted by flocks of pelicans on a ferry journey alongside the Gulf of Mexico that was completely stunning—to a shrimp competition that had essentially the most disgusting meals I’ve ever tasted. And no shrimp! Or, you recognize, attending a queer pleasure competition in a small city. A few of that was actually heartening, to see that queer folks had been in every single place in locations that I hadn’t thought of. Individuals had been residing brazenly and confronting their communities or being accepted by them.

Let’s go on to the Tradition Food plan questions. What time do you get up within the morning and what’s the very first thing you do?

I get up at 6:30 or 7 AM and I make espresso and head straight to my novel. I’m not allowed to learn the information, have a look at emails, for simply an hour. I set a timer for myself. Coming proper out of that dream state and never getting distracted by terrible stuff or getting enraged by issues or answering my mother’s questions on a recipe, I can get half of my day’s work performed in that hour. However then I relent, as a result of you’ll be able to’t look away from the world as of late.

After that hour, what’s the very first thing you learn?

The Washington Put up. That’s my hometown paper, and since they acquired such an infusion of money, for higher or worse, from Bezos, their political reporting is the very best. Then, it falls aside as soon as it goes to eating and leisure.

The place do you get these, then?

The New York Occasions, after which it’s on to Instagram, and the day is misplaced.

What books are in your bedside desk proper now?

I’m in Maine, so I’ve my good friend’s bedside desk. I’m within the youngsters room so final night time, I learn half of The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. I haven’t learn that in 20 years or one thing. I stayed up until 3 within the morning. It was such a joyous expertise—it was like being a youngster. Again at house, I’ve Karen Pleasure Fowler’s new guide, Sales space. It’s the subsequent guide I’m going to choose up.

Do you bear in mind the final film you noticed in theaters?

Yup, it was High Gun: Maverick. I watched it with my complete household. In fact, my mother hated it. I’m the age the place I watched High Gun as a youngster, and I hated it. I used to be like, why are these guys combating one another? I don’t perceive male politics. However this time, I watched it understanding what it’s, which is a type of right-wing propaganda. My brother turned to me, and he’s like, “That was the very best film I’ve ever seen.” It pulled up that nonsense view of America and maleness so completely. Now, I’m at an age the place I perceive that fiction and I can recognize that storytelling whereas rejecting its repercussions. My Italian boyfriend, nevertheless, was like, “That is offensive in direction of the remainder of the world.” Which it’s! In fact it’s, it’s High Gun!

What’s the final track or album you had on repeat?

Lizzo. I’ve acquired the album, Particular, however I largely take heed to “About Rattling Time.” That basically simply made my summer time. Even in Italy, it was consistently on the radio. Typically I get up and attempt to simply dance to a track very first thing within the morning, if I’m alone. It’s all the time Lizzo or Beyoncé as of late.

How do you’re feeling concerning the new Beyoncé?

I’ve to confess, I used to be listening to it whereas I used to be simply at Burning Man. You’ll be able to’t keep away from it at Burning Man at a camp of all homosexual males. For me it was actually a joyous expertise of selecting up ’90s references.

Do you go to Burning Man yearly?

I haven’t been in 5 years, nevertheless it’s my thirteenth time.

I’ve by no means performed Burning Man, however from what I perceive, the completely different camps have themes—what’s your factor?

That is so embarrassing, however apparently I’m telling each reporter. Our camp, we serve Bloody Marys and bacon at 11 a.m., and we exit into the road and attempt to deliver folks in for Bloody Marys and bacon, to satisfy strangers. Individuals hand around in our lounge and chat with one another and we deliver the bacon round.

What is the final theater efficiency — be it play, musical, no matter—that you just went to?

It was in New York Metropolis, the Spring Awakening reunion in November. All of the forged members got here again for a live performance to re-perform it. The present is youngsters and their sexual awakening within the nineteenth century. In fact, now they’re all of their thirties and pregnant. It was a present that meant so much to me when it got here out. I feel it did to a sure technology. And to see all of them as adults—you recognize, Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff, who now have some movie star, seeing them make out on stage when now we all know he’s homosexual, it’s all actually candy. And simply being within the theater in any respect was unbelievable.

Do you imagine in astrology?

I don’t, however I definitely know so much about it. Many mates all through my life have taught me a lot about it, and plenty of of my college students have been very concerned with it. I used to be raised to be interested by different folks’s perception methods with out critiquing them. So I like it, however I all the time reject the concept there are varieties of folks. I like to satisfy folks individually. So I don’t wish to know their signal or their Myers-Briggs quantity. I discover that will get in the way in which of me really understanding them. However apparently for different folks, it’s a great tool. I don’t suppose it’s unhealthy. It’s stunning.

Have you learnt what your signal is?

I’m a Scorpio—and happy with it.

What’s the very last thing that you just do earlier than you go to mattress?

I learn one thing boring on Wikipedia. Throughout the pandemic, I talked usually with my twin brother however since we had been 9 hours aside it was arduous. So I might learn Wikipedia about essentially the most boring issues I might consider, which turned out to be Roman antiquity politics and the Byzantine Empire. Two years later, once I noticed my brother once more, he mentioned, “You realize, each night time I’ve been studying concerning the Roman republic and the Byzantine Empire to fall asleep.”

Wait, actually?

Sure, actually.

Simply by coincidence, you ended up studying the identical boring articles to fall asleep?

That’s precisely proper.

This interview has been condensed and edited for readability.


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