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Mars-Jones, Adam 1954-

MARS-JONES, Adam 1954-

PERSONAL: Born October 26, 1954, in London, England; son of William Lloyd (a judge) and Sheila (an attorney; maiden name, Cobon) Mars-Jones. Education: Cambridge University, B.A., 1976, M.A., 1978.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Peters, Fraser, and Dunlop, 503-504 The Chambers, Chelsea Harbour, Lots Rd., London SW10 0XF, England.

CAREER: Writer; Independent, London, England, film critic, 1986-97; Times, London, England, film critic, 1998-2000.

AWARDS, HONORS: Benjamin C. Moomaw Prize for Oratory, University of Virginia; Hoyns fellow for creative writing; Somerset Maugham Award, 1982, for Lantern Lecture.

WRITINGS:

Fabrications (stories), Knopf (New York, NY), 1981, published with an additional title story as Lantern Lecture, Faber (London, England), 1981.

(Editor) Mae West Is Dead: Recent Lesbian and Gay Fiction, Faber (London, England), 1983.

(With Edmund White) The Darker Proof: Stories from a Crisis, Faber (London, England), 1987, New American Library (New York, NY), 1988.

Venus Envy, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1990.

Monopolies of Loss, Knopf (New York, NY), 1993.

The Waters of Thirst, Faber (London, England), 1993, Knopf (New York, NY), 1994.

Blind Bitter Happiness, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1997.

Contributor to books, including The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories, edited by Malcolm Bradbury, Penguin, 1987; Best Short Stories, 1988, edited by Giles Gordon and David Hughes, Heinemann, 1988; Best Short Stories, 1989, edited by Giles Gordon and David Hughes, Heinemann, 1989; The Faber Book of Gay Short Stories, edited by Edmund Wilson, Faber, 1991; and The Oxford Book of English Love Stories, edited by John Sutherland, Oxford University Press, 1996. Contributor to periodicals, including Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, Observer, Granta, Quarto, and Index on Censorship.

SIDELIGHTS: British-born fiction writer Adam Mars-Jones first caught critical attention with his 1981 story collection Lantern Lecture—published in a slightly abridged version as Fabrications in the United States—which was hailed as a triumphant debut by Galen Strawson in the Times Literary Supplement. Assessing the book, Strawson found that "there is something punk, in the modern sense of the word, about this extremely clever and original collection of stories. It's to do with the emotionally deadpanned style of delivery, the technical impassivity of the allusive, cloisonne construction."

In 1987, in response to the social emergency surrounding AIDS, Mars-Jones collaborated with Edmund White to produce The Darker Proof: Stories from the Crisis. This collection deals "less with the disease and its case-histories than with the effect it has had on the consciousness of people who are living in close proximity to it," according to Anne Billson in a London Times interview with Mars-Jones. As the interview related, Mars-Jones has maintained a personal interest in the subject matter by acting as a "buddy"—someone readily available to provide physical and moral support—to a pair of AIDS victims. While he told Billson that he never before considered writing about the disease from the standpoint of a buddy, he saw that "the book wouldn't have been written if I hadn't buddied, because I wouldn't have had a sense of knowing the reality [of AIDS] rather than just the culture of it."

Calling Mars-Jones's work in The Darker Proof "an important discovery," Washington Post critic Richard McCann added that the writer "devotes his considerable intelligence and compassion to the exploration of smaller moments in which characters renegotiate their daily lives." While the Mars-Jones style is "highly discursive," wrote McCann, it still "allows him to build toward powerfully dramatic realizations, particularly when he writes, as he often does, of the guilty and grief-stricken transactions between the sick and the (still) well." An essayist for Contemporary Novelists compared The Darker Proof with the earlier Lantern Lecture: "Albeit devoid of the exciting experimental structures of Lantern Lecture, the same basic strengths of Mars-Jones's writing come through in The Darker Proof. The humor . . . springs from an awareness of the maximum possible motivations and interpretations of any action, and his subject matter of whatever kind, is imbued with absolute precision."

Mars-Jones continues writing fictionally about AIDS in his Monopolies of Loss, a collection of nine stories. "Through snapshots of the epidemic," wrote Pamela Wine in the Journal of the American Medical Association, "Mars-Jones's stories fashion a collage of lives staggered from fear and death." Kasia Boddy, writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, quoted Mars-Jones's introduction to the collection: "His goal was to explore the illness from as many perspectives as possible: how it felt 'to be well in a sick world, to be sick in a well world, to be part of a relationship in which sickness was an atmospheric feature, to write about close relationships, personal relationships, and impersonal relationships, the new style of relationship that the epidemic sort of forged.'" A Publishers Weekly critic found "a Chekhovian resonance" in the story "A Small Spade," in which a man accompanies his AIDS-infected lover to a hospital emergency room for minor surgery and comes to realize that their future together will be filled with similar visits.

In the novel The Waters of Thirst, Mars-Jones tells of William, a gay man who is dying of AIDS in a London hospital, as he looks back over his life. William has worked as a voice-over actor in television and has had a longtime relationship with his companion, Terry. In his present condition, brought on by kidney failure, he spends his hours fantasizing about a gay porn star whose career he has followed. "The novel climaxes with William waking to discover—fantastically—the porn star Hunter lying in the hospital bed with him," Richard Canning revealed in the New Statesman. "With this book-length monologue," Ray Olson wrote in Booklist, "Mars-Jones consolidates his status as the premier writer of fiction about dying gay men—an odd niche for anyone to fill."

Boddy concluded of Mars-Jones that the writer continues to experiment with new styles of short fiction. "The stories in Monopolies of Loss are radically different in theme and style from those in Lantern Lecture," the critic noted, while "In The Waters of Thirst he takes on the challenge of the novel with verve and originality. . . . What unites all Mars-Jones's writings is a sharp intelligence, a distrust of easy emotion . . . , and a precise and expert handling of language."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Contemporary Novelists, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 207: British Novelists since 1960, Third Series, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Woods, Gregory, A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1998.

PERIODICALS

Advocate, April 5, 1994, Brian Hickman, review of The Waters of Thirst, p. 74.

Booklist, April 1, 1993, Ray Olson, review of Monopolies of Loss, p. 1410; March 1, 1994, Ray Olson, review of The Waters of Thirst, p. 1181.

Gay Times, November, 1992, Sebastian Beaumont, review of Monopolies of Loss.

Harper's, November, 1981, Jeffrey Burke, review of Fabrications, p. 82.

Journal of the American Medical Association, March 2, 1994, Pamela Wine, review of Monopolies of Loss, p. 717.

Lambda Book Report, July-August, 1992, Richard McCann, "Writing AIDS," p. 10; May-June, 1993, John Weir, review of Monopolies of Loss, p. 26.

Library Journal, September 15, 1981, Janet Wiehe, review of Fabrications p. 1753; November 1, 1983, review of Mae West Is Dead: Recent Lesbian and Gay Fiction, p. 2100; April 1, 1993, Brian Kenney, review of Monopolies of Loss, p. 134; April 15, 1994, Kevin M. Roddy, review of The Waters of Thirst, p. 113.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 1, 1981.

New Statesman, October 2, 1981, Martin Amis, review of Lantern Lecture, p. 21; November 11, 1983, Harriett Gilbert, review of Mae West Is Dead, p. 30; September 25, 1992, Richard Canning, review of Monopolies of Loss, p. 57; June 25, 1993, Richard Canning, review of The Waters of Thirst, p. 38.

New Yorker, May 30, 1994, review of The Waters of Thirst, p. 111.

New York Times Book Review, June 13, 1993, Meg Wolitzer, review of Monopolies of Loss, p. 18; March 20, 1994, Jonathan Dee, review of The Waters of Thirst, p. 25.

Observer (London, England), July 1, 1990; May 31, 1994, review of The Waters of Thirst.

Publishers Weekly, September 11, 1981, review of Fabrications p. 59; September 23, 1983, Sally A. Lodge, review of Mae West Is Dead, p. 69; February 5, 1988, Penny Kaganoff, review of The Darker Proof: Stories from a Crisis, p. 89; February 15, 1993, review of Monopolies of Loss, p. 188; February 28, 1994, review of The Waters of Thirst, p. 73.

Scotsman, July 3, 1993, Ali Smith, review of The Waters of Thirst. Times (London, England), February 23, 1983; June 29, 1987; August 9, 1987.

Times Literary Supplement, October 9, 1981, Galen Strawson, review of Lantern Lecture.

Washington Monthly, July-August, 1988, Joe Arena, review of The Darker Proof, p. 58.

Washington Post, May 30, 1988, Richard McCann, review of The Darker Proof.

Washington Post Book World, November 1, 1981.

ONLINE

Contemporary Writers,http://www.contemporarywriters.com/ (November 13, 2003).

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