A Bad Gay and Other Stories: A Mini-Review of The Bone Clocks / Less

I finally finished The Bone Clocks. I kept putting it off to do other things; I’d read a chapter and fall down the rabbit hole for an hour, and then get distracted again. It’s not the book’s fault, I don’t think. I just couldn’t focus. Scratch that, maybe it’s the book’s fault. Just a little. It’s told in five sections, by four different points of view. Although David Mitchell is clearly intellectual and formidably well-read, the narration was random and rambling and I would catch myself wondering – what was the point of all this? Why should I care about this or that protagonist? What’s around the riverbend? He answers my questions in the last third. My only conclusion is that David Mitchell may written it while on an acid trip, because the shit that goes down is so bonkers, so weird, and so out there, I had to reread some sentences just to try and piece it all out in my head. That’s what happens when words like psychodecanter, neurobola, ingress, scansion, etc. are thrown at you out of nowhere like a barrage of psychic projectiles. It kind of reminds me of that Brampton video that went viral last week – just another a lovely summer day in a nice, quiet suburban neighbourhood, then a car comes careening in out of nowhere, smashing into everything like it’s a scene out of a Fast and the Furious franchise.

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Unlike The Bone Clocks, I had no problem finishing Less. It’s an easier read. If there’s any takeaway I have from it, it’s that Andrew Sean Greer is a masterful storyteller.

Nothing seems to go right for Arthur Less; absurdity is so much a part of his life story, it is his life story. It is, in parts, hilariously tragicomic. I laughed like a loon when he gets told to his face that the reason his work hasn’t been accepted into the gay canon is because he is a “bad gay” for focusing too much on the sads and never giving his protagonists a happy ending (“But Odysseus returns to Penelope!”). I also giggled at his dogged determination to get his VAT back, no matter what it takes, because he’s American, dammit all to hell.

I envy Greer his control. He repeats the use of certain words or phrases (“They are not kidding”, “An Evening With Arthur Less”, “Why?”) to add levity, and rein in the constant flashbacks and it’s like watching an expert puppeteer at work, tongue firmly embedded in cheek.

Not that I agree with how it all went down. I don’t feel the ending was deserved, but (here be spoilers!) that is probably because I have very little patience for aimlessly frivolous people who seem to think it’s okay to ask their friends to Save the Date, then go through with the whole kit-and-boodle, only to turn around after a scant twenty-four hours of being married and say, um, I don’t think I should have done this…? Yes, Britney Spears did it too, but she was drunk and in Vegas. In Less, it turns out to be an utterly premeditated, lousy, wasteful, overly dramatic attempt to get attention. It’s like Sally Rooney’s Normal People – if they had just talked it out, they would’ve been fine. Why do they never talk it out? Also, why do they always say what they don’t mean? I get that Arthur Less is emotionally scarred because he was unceremoniously dumped by the poet/genius/asshole he gave his youth to, which is why he pushes everyone who gets close to him away, but really, fifteen years of stewing in his own drama? Please.

Still, if the end goal was to give a gay protagonist a happy ending in order to get included in the gay canon, Mission Accomplished. I can almost hear Andrew Greer muttering “am I a good gay now?” to his critics. I will give him this: he is a very good gay. They were not kidding.

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