Adam Mars-Jones

Adam Mars-Jones is a professor of creative writing at Goldsmiths. His novels include Box Hill and Batlava Lake, which are quite brief, and Pilcrow and Cedilla, which are intended to be part of a million-word sequence. An early version of some of Kid Gloves: A Voyage round My Father appeared in the LRB. His new novel, Caret, was published in 2023.

Space Aria: On Samantha Harvey

Adam Mars-Jones, 8 February 2024

To capture​ the world in a day was one of literary modernism’s defining ventures, with Ulysses setting the standard for exhaustiveness. Restricting the action to a single day is a mild piece of formalism, certainly when compared with some self-imposed contortions, but it disrupts standard novelistic workings just the same. Plot can more or less evaporate, replaced by less strident...

There’s​ no better ballast for a fantasy narrative, something solid to keep all the impossible elements grounded (time travel, biodrones), than a numbered bus route: ‘the 88 bus passes by noisily’; ‘the 214 bus from Pratt Street to Old Street’. In Sterling Karat Gold, the Goldsmiths Prize winning novel of 2021, Isabel Waidner showed a shrewd sense of how to...

The campus novel​ is a sub-genre with an inbuilt tendency towards navel-gazing since literary fiction is by and large written by graduates for graduates. Setting this one in Iowa City, home of the Writers’ Workshop, risks an inflammation of this tendency. Sensibly, Brandon Taylor pulls away from roman à clef territory and a hall-of-mirrors effect by ignoring practitioners of...

James Purdy​’s literary career comes with its own creation myth. He had been making no headway until in 1956 Edith Sitwell read a privately printed book of his stories and, ravished, threw herself into finding him a publisher and an audience. In one version of the event, Don’t Call Me by My Right Name, the book Purdy sent from America to Italy, made the last stage of its journey...

Readers are comfortable with the notion of the unreliable narrator – although it’s not clear what a reliable one would be. A narrator without blind spots and a certain degree of myopia would be like Superman in his guise as Clark Kent, only pretending to need glasses. Namwali Serpell’s narrator is in a different category – does she even qualify as a narrator if she isn’t present at the story she is telling?

In 1948, Tennessee Williams published a short story (and collection of the same title) called ‘One Arm’. It is about Oliver Winemiller, a magnificent young navy boxer who lost an arm...

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Zero Grazing

John Ryle, 5 November 1992

Seventy-four years ago a viral pandemic began in America, most likely on a pig farm in Iowa. Fifteen months later it had killed over eighteen million people, 1 per cent of the world’s...

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Plague Fiction

Charles Nicholl, 23 July 1987

It sounds like it’s something to do with helping, but that is very far from its meaning. I can’t remember when we first started hearing it; no more than five or six years ago, surely....

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Ugly Stuff

Ian Hamilton, 15 October 1981

William Trevor is bewitched by childhoods and by second childhoods: the ‘grown-up’ bit in between is for him a dullish swamp of lies, commerce, lust and things like that. For Trevor,...

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