Thirlwell, Adam 1978-

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THIRLWELL, Adam 1978-


Born 1978. Education: New College; fellow of All Soul's College, Oxford University, 2003.


Office—c/o All Souls College, Oxford, OX1 4AL England. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected].


Scholar, assistant editor of Areté Magazine.


Seven-year fellowship, All Soul's College, Oxford University; Granta magazine Best of Young British Novelists list, 2003, for Politics.


Politics, Fourth Estate (New York, NY), 2003.

"The Art of Fellatio," extract from Politics, was published in Areté, 2003.


At age twenty-five, English scholar, magazine editor, and new novelist Adam Thirlwell was named to Granta magazine's Best of Young British Novelists list, 2003, for his first novel, Politics, which had not yet been published at the time. Only a twelve-page extract, titled "The Art of Fellatio," had made a debut, in the Oxford literary magazine "Areté," for which Thirlwell serves as assistant editor. Thirlwell was the youngest honoree named to the Granta list for 2003.

Politics is a humorous novel about sexual manners within a youthful North London ménage à trois. The story opens with a sex scene between the main character, Moshe, and his girlfriend, Nana. Moshe is shy and underconfident and is trying hard to please Nana, as the two explore the technique of "rimming," with Nana fastened to the bedposts with pink handcuffs that are too large for her slender wrists. Later in the story, a lesbian character, Anjali, enters the picture, having fallen for Nana.

Thirlwell describes his sex scenes in minute detail, using a realist approach. Yet the real story is behind the scenes, in what the characters are thinking during sex. Small distractions, such as noticing a particular table lamp, serve to set their minds wandering, and from there the musings continue on to what Bookseller contributor Benedicte Page called "cheeky digressions into the domestic lives of Stalin, Hitler and Chairman Mao."

In a Bookseller interview, Thirlwell explained, "I thought how often with sex, the feelings one has during it are not particularly sexual. They could easily be psychological, or ethical, or just worrying about not having bought something. So it's a book that looks as though it were obscene, but actually it's deeply innocent." Page remarked, "The reader is more likely to come away … with a sense of the characters' simple kindness and awkward good intentions."

Emma Brockes, in a review for the Guardian, also commented on the distraction from sex, saying the author "leaves the sex scenes for interludes to quote Stendhal, muse on the universality of perversion and speculate about the sexual appetites of Adolf Hitler." She found the novel to be "quite saucy."



Booklist, September 15, 2003, John Green, review of Politics, p. 213.

Bookseller, June 6, 2003, Benedicte Page, "How to Be Good in Bed: Adam Thirlwell's Debut Novel Explores the Complications of a Youthful Menage a Trois," p. 28.

Guardian, January 6, 2003, Fiachra Gibbons, "Obscure Unpublished Novelist Joins the Elite"; January 7, 2003, Emma Brockes, "Going Down in the Anals of Literature."

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2003, review of Politics, p. 991.

New Statesman (1996), August 25, 2003, Phil Whitaker, review of Politics, p. 39.

Publishers Weekly, September 29, 2003, review of Politics, p. 28.

Spectator, September 6, 2003, G. E. Armitage, review of Politics, p. 42.

Times Literary Supplement, August 29, 2003, Christopher Tayler, "Gilongirl, hopefully," p. 20.


All Souls College Web site, (September 12, 2003)., (May 21, 2003), "Adam Thirlwell.", (March 21, 2004), review of Politics.

Observer Online (London, England), (May 21, 2003), "The Granta List 2003."

Sydney Morning Herald, (January 7, 2003), "Best of British."*