Adam Mars-Jones

Adam Mars-Jones is director of the Writers’ Centre at Goldsmiths. His novels include Batlava Lake and Box Hill.

Quantum Influencers

Adam Mars-Jones, 7 April 2022

Benjamin Labatut​’s When We Cease to Understand the World is a skein of non-fiction stories or narrative essays unified by their subject matter, the mostly 20th-century breakthroughs in physics and chemistry that shook both those disciplines and the wider world. (The judges of last year’s International Booker Prize, who shortlisted the book, must have concluded that the...

Make ’em bleed: ‘The War for Gloria’

Adam Mars-Jones, 27 January 2022

Goodhealth connects us with the world, illness forces us back onto ourselves. When Gloria Goltz, the title character of Atticus Lish’s second novel, The War for Gloria, in her early forties, clever, unfulfilled and the mother of a teenager, is diagnosed with the degenerative illness ALS, her life shrinks. Meanwhile her son Corey, who is fifteen when she is diagnosed, both acts as her...

Orificial Events: ‘The Promise’

Adam Mars-Jones, 4 November 2021

The appetite​ for an authoritative portrait of the new South Africa was both catered to and resisted by J.M. Coetzee’s Booker Prize-winning Disgrace, in which a narrative of disintegration and one of reconstruction were superimposed on each other, leaving it to the reader to decide which was the lower layer. (The last page might clinch it.) Twenty years later, Damon Galgut’s The...

There isn’t any inside! William Gaddis

Adam Mars-Jones, 23 September 2021

The reader’s experience of The Recognitions (this reader’s) is of being alternately abandoned and spoon-fed. How many times does a child from downstairs need to ask party guests to supply sleeping tablets for her mother for the reader to understand these are irresponsible people? In The Recognitions it happens four times. 

At first glance​ the title of Sarah Schulman’s remarkable history of the Aids pressure group ACT UP in New York has a cool authority at odds with the turbulent energy of the group itself, although justified by the meticulousness of her scholarship. Let the Record Show was also the title of a 1987 agitprop artwork devised by a collective that later called itself Gran Fury, and...

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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