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Mars-Jones, Adam (b. 1954)  

Author and editor Adam Mars-Jones has written short stories as well as longer fiction on gay themes, including AIDS.

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.

Lawrence Normand


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Mars-Jones, Adam. Lantern Lecture, and Other Stories. London: Faber, 1981.

_____, ed. Mae West is Dead: Recent Lesbian and Gay Fiction. London: Faber, 1983.

_____, and Edmund White. The Darker Proof: Stories from a Crisis. London: Faber, 1987.

_____. Venus Envy. London: Chatto and Windus [Chatto Counterblasts No. 14], 1990.

_____. Monopolies of Loss. London: Faber, 1992.

_____. The Waters of Thirst. London: Faber, 1993.

Strawson, Galen. Review of Lantern Lecture. Times Literary Supplement (October 9, 1981).


    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  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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