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Adam Mars-Jones (born October 26, 1954)

Author and editor Adam Mars-Jones has written short stories as well as longer fiction on gay themes, including AIDS. (Picture: Adam Mars-Jones, credit Sarah Lee)

Born in 1954 into an upper-middle class legal family in London--his father was a judge, his mother a lawyer--Mars-Jones was educated at Westminster School and Cambridge University. He is now film critic of the London Independent.

Mars-Jones won considerable praise for his first book, Lantern Lectures (1981), a set of three novellas written in a post-modern mode. "Hoosh-Mi" is a grotesque story of the British Queen's contracting rabies from a pet corgi's bite, and continuing to fulfill royal functions under increasingly adverse conditions. Told by various narrators, it combines dark humor with sharp analysis of royalty's contemporary futility.

A similar mixture of fiction and documentary is also evident in "Bathpool Park," which takes Harry Hawkes's The Capture of the Black Panther, about a notorious murderer, as a starting point to show a criminal's construction of a crime. The story goes on to show the police, the press, and the judiciary--social institutions specifically designed to find out and publicly narrate the truth--failing to discover it.

Lantern Lecture's technical qualities were noted in a review by Galen Strawson, who cited the "emotionally deadpanned style of delivery, the technical impassivity of the allusive, cloisonné construction."

Mars-Jones's critical skills are evident in his 1983 selection of lesbian and gay fiction, Mae West Is Dead. The stories by young American and British writers give an impression of the very different ways it had become possible to live as gay people in the 1980s. Mars-Jones selected them to counter mainstream gay fiction's connivance with commercialized gay lifestyles.

Mars-Jones has been writing stories about AIDS since 1986, first in a collection with Edmund White, The Darker Proof: Stories from a Crisis (1987); then in a collection of his own, Monopolies of Loss (1992). It was after acting as "buddy" for two AIDS sufferers that he realized that he could write about the subject. Postmodern techniques are dropped in favor of a precise, deliberately restricted realism, and first-person narration in the later stories.

"A Small Spade" concerns two young men's trip to the seaside and the difficulties caused by one of them (who is HIV-positive) having a splinter in his finger. "The Changes of Those Terrible Years" is told by a man who has turned his large house into a hospice, benefiting the ill but also himself as he acquires power and purpose from others' misfortune.

Mars-Jones recognizes the irony of a writer discovering in a disease, which is so fearful for those who suffer from it, a subject that benefits him so much as a writer. The stories he has written about AIDS have sought to diminish attention due to the virus so that it becomes, in his own words, "neither ignored nor holding centre stage."

Mars-Jones's only novel, The Waters of Thirst (1993), uses the first-person narration and authorial irony developed in the AIDS stories to present a man waiting for a kidney-replacement operation, and so denied the gustatory pleasures of the healthy, and developing a fastidious imaginary relationship with a porn star. The novel, using the techniques of the stories but without the subject of AIDS, has baffled many readers, though most have seen it as a metaphor for denial in a world with HIV.

Citation Information
Author: Normand, Lawrence
Entry Title: Mars-Jones, Adam
General Editor: Claude J. Summers
Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture
Publication Date: 2002
Date Last Updated November 12, 2002
Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/marsjones_a.html
Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL 60607
Today's Date October 26, 2012
Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.
Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates

Further Readings:

Waters of Thirst by Adam Mars-Jones
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Vintage (June 13, 1995)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0679759603
ISBN-13: 978-0679759607
Amazon: Waters of Thirst

William and Terry chanced upon monogamy before it became the symbol of a world ruled by illness and denial. The author--an acclaimed voice in the gay community--offers a brilliant, hilarious, and touching novel about love and desire in the plague years.

Mae West Is Dead: Recent Lesbian and Gay Fiction by Adam Mars-Jones
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Edition edition (November 1987)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0571148980
ISBN-13: 978-0571148981
Amazon: Mae West Is Dead: Recent Lesbian and Gay Fiction

Mae West is Dead represents the best of contemporary lesbian and gay fiction in Britain and the United States. This edition includes a new story by Adam Mars-Jones.

Darker Proof by Edmund White and Adam Mars-Jones
Paperback: 309 pages
Publisher: Faber and Faber; 2nd edition (April 18, 1988)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0571151884
ISBN-13: 978-0571151882
Amazon: Darker Proof

This is a timely collection: seven stories (four by Mars-Jones, a British writer, and three by White, the noted author of A Boy's Own Story and The Beautiful Room Is Empty) that examine the various effects of AIDS on gay men, their families and their way of life; it is fiction ripped, as it were, out of the headlines, though the stories here are by no means the first to tackle the theme. Unfortunately, though all of the tales pack an emotional wallopthey are, after all, about young people who are dying or living with the deaths of their friends and loversthe writers have merely presented us with situations that provoke grief and indignation, and done little, it seems, to shape them into involving fiction. Mars-Jones's stories appear first here, and the emotional truth they lack whets the appetite for White's pieces, which will disappoint those familiar with his earlier work. Four stories are longer than 40 pages; the writing is journalistic rather than imaginative ("Whereas the French were calm and rational in their responses to the epidemic, the Germans, like the English, were being driven to hysteria by their press," White writes). Unfortunately, even as readers will be enervated by the sadness and anger inherent in fiction about AIDS, the stories are more notable for their subject matter than their execution. Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Tags: author: adam mars-jones, eminent outlaws, gay classics, literary heritage, persistent voices
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