Lively, Adam 1961-

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LIVELY, Adam 1961-

PERSONAL: Born January 20, 1961, in Swansea, Wales; son of Jack (a professor of politics) and Penelope (an author; maiden name, Low) Lively; married Diana Hinds (a journalist), March 11, 1990; children: Jacob. Education: Clare College, Cambridge, B.A., 1983; attended Yale University, 1983-85. Politics: Liberal.

ADDRESSES: Home—69 Poet's Rd., London N5 25H, England. Agent—Derek Johns, A. P. Watt Ltd., 20 John St., London WC1N 2DR, England.

CAREER: Novelist and author of nonfiction, 1988—.

AWARDS, HONORS: Named among Twenty Best Young British Novelists, Granta, 1993.



Blue Fruit, Simon and Schuster (London, England), 1988, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1993.

The Burnt House, Simon and Schuster (London, England), 1989.

The Snail, Hutchinson (London, England), 1991.

Sing the Body Electric, Chatto and Windus (London, England), 1993.


(Editor with father, Jack Lively) Democracy in Britain: A Reader, Blackwell (Cambridge, MA), 1994.

Masks: Blackness, Race, and the Imagination, Chatto and Windus (London, England), 1998, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.

SIDELIGHTS: In 1993 Granta magazine chose Adam Lively as one of its twenty best young British novelists. Since the publication in 1988 of his first novel, the well-received Blue Fruit, Lively has penned several other novels, coedited a nonfiction book with his father, professor Jack Lively, and authored a nonfiction study on race and culture. Victoria Glendinning, reviewing Lively's fiction for the London Times, noted that the author "is not afraid of taking risks," and Alan Ross, critiquing 1991's The Snail in the Times Literary Supplement, hailed Lively as "a novelist of natural gifts."

Published in 1988, Blue Fruit is a novel of time travel; its protagonist, John Field, is an eighteenth-century English ship's doctor who is put ashore from his whaling vessel only to find that he has arrived in twentieth-century New York. There he is taken in by a black family, who, while obviously not the slaves Field first takes them for, are not much better off financially than slaves. Despite the many differences between Field and his new friends, music forms a common bond—one of the men is a jazz musician, while Field is a classically trained violinist. With his companions, Field, who has tried to escape his father's restrictions all his life, eventually finds his true home in the twentieth-century slum. Though some reviewers questioned the time-travel element and Field's ease in adjusting to it, most rendered positive praise. For example, Brian Morton in the Times Literary Supplement declared Blue Fruit "a mysterious and moving first novel," and Leonard Feather in the Los Angeles Times Book Review lauded the piece as "a strikingly original work."

The Burnt House, Lively's second literary effort, concerns a U.S. television news anchor working on a project in England. He purchases a dilapidated Victorian house and is aided in its restoration by a young man from the British Midlands who has very little hope of a successful future. The house forms a bond between the two men which, according to Tim Adams in the Times Literary Supplement, "Lively deftly uses . . . as a fulcrum against which to explore contemporary metropolitan values."

Lively's The Snail focuses on English pub life during World War II. Characters include Taylor, a poet who warns of the Apocalypse; MacCready, an artist who makes his living producing small animals made from pipe cleaners; and Morgan, a foreign correspondent who smuggled Jews out of Vienna, Austria, just before Nazi forces arrived there. Though Ross complained in the Times Literary Supplement that The Snail is sometimes "obscure" and "wilfully misleading," he also commented that "Lively has a genuine talent for comic dialogue and he writes a cool, elegant prose."

Sing the Body Electric, Lively's fourth work of fiction, has a futuristic setting, although the novel is written in the epistolary style popular in the nineteenth century. In 2064, the book's opening date, a nineteenth-century historical theme park serves as a Utopian retreat where composer Paul Clearwater lives in order to help overcome a creative block. Eventually, Clearwater also comes in contact with one of the twenty-first century's latest inventions—a personal stereo that makes music from individual neural activity. Nick Kimberley, reviewing Sing the Body Electric in New Statesman, praised "Lively's questing and voracious musical appetite" and called him "a conscientious writer who leavens occasional ponderous moments with a sly wit."

Democracy in Britain: A Reader, coedited by Lively and his father, Jack Lively, is a collection of articles covering the development of democracy in British history. The book pairs contrasting samples from the diverse theoretical writings which have made democracy a viable idea, including pieces by such figures as John Milton, Salmon Rushdie, and Edmund Burke. Because of this approach, Boyd Tonkin in New Statesman called Democracy in Britain "an intelligent collection that brings disparate figures and ideas into fruitful dialogue."

In Masks: Blackness, Race, and the Imagination Lively traces the development of another historical idea, that of racial difference. Beginning in the eighteenth century, American, British, and French writers began to come to terms with Africans and devised appropriate ways to depict them in literary works. Lively analyzes these various depictions as found in a wide range of writings, from abolitionist tracts and scientific works to popular novels and the works of the Harlem Renaissance. He argues that even much writing sincerely meant to defend or to benefit African Americans, particularly those abolitionist writings against American slavery, depicted them as being simple minded, meek, and ineffectual creatures who needed white guidance. He also traces what he perceives as a racial consciousness at the heart of modernism. "Written in a style that is a pleasure to read, Masks gives us an invigorating survey," as Ashraf H. A. Rushdy wrote in African American Review. Gilbert Taylor in Booklist found that "students of literary history should discover useful insights in Lively's criticism." Mike Phillips in New Statesman credited Lively with investigating a subject generally overlooked by other British writers: "Lively's excursion into it signals a refreshing adventurousness."

Lively, who is the son of noted British novelist Penelope Lively, once told CA: "Music is an important inspiration for my work."



African American Review, summer, 2002, Ashraf H.A. Rushdy, review of Masks: Blackness, Race and the Imagination, p. 327.

Booklist, February 15, 2000, Gilbert Taylor, review of Masks, p. 1072.

Christian Science Monitor, July 17, 1989, p. 13.

Library Journal, February 1, 2000, Sherri Barnes, review of Masks, p. 102.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 6, 1989, Leonard Feather, review of Blue Fruit, p. 9.

New Statesman, April 1, 1988, Leslie Dick, review of Blue Fruit, p. 27; June 25, 1993, Nick Kimberley, review of Sing the Body Electric, p. 40; May 13, 1994, Boyd Tonkin, review of Democracy in Britain: A Reader, p. 40; August 28, 1998, Mike Phillips, review of Masks, p. 46.

New Statesman and Society, May 19, 1989, Paul Oldfield, review of The Burnt House, p. 25.

Publishers Weekly, March 3, 1989, Sybil Steinberg, review of Blue Fruit, p. 82.

Times (London, England), February 4, 1988; May 18, 1989.

Times Literary Supplement, February 5, 1988, Brian Morton, review of Blue Fruit, p. 133; June 23, 1989, Tim Adams, review of The Burnt House, p. 695; May 10, 1991, Alan Ross, review of The Snail, p. 19.

Washington Post Book World, April 2, 1989, p. 6.


Contemporary Writers, (November 13, 2003).*