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by Adam Mars-Jones

Meet John Cromer, one of the most unusual heroes in modern fiction. If the minority is always right then John is practically infallible. Growing up disabled and gay in the 1950s, circumstances force John from an early age to develop an intense and vivid internal world. As his character develops, this ability to transcend external circumstance through his own strength of character proves invaluable. Extremely funny and incredibly poignant, this is a major new novel from a writer at the height of his powers.'I'm not sure I can claim to have taken my place in the human alphabet...I'm more like an optional accent or specialised piece of punctuation, hard to track down on the typewriter or computer keyboard...'
Download Pilcrow epub
ISBN: 0571217036
ISBN13: 978-0571217038
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Contemporary
Author: Adam Mars-Jones
Language: English
Publisher: Faber and Faber (2008)
Pages: 640 pages
ePUB size: 1389 kb
FB2 size: 1320 kb
Rating: 4.3
Votes: 823
Other Formats: txt lrf lrf lit

Having thus far read only 160 pages or so of this book, I am finding it very interesting and well written. Mar-Jones has set himself a difficult task of fastidiously recording the minute observations of a protagonist who is a) all but completely crippled and b) skirts on the edge of being a very tiresome person. What saves John Cromer is his intuition, sense of humor and his willingness to not shut himself off from his limited experience depsite being trapped in its' midst by the failure of his physical being. "Pilcrow" being the first volume of a massive work in progress still being written, I look forward to finishing this reading and then getting hold of its successor volume "Cedilla". I've seen Mars-Jones work here being referred to as that of a latter day Proust. On a level for detail I can buy that comparison. The prose is not as winding as Proust's and the protagonist doesn't take himself quite as seriously as Proust's narrator. The humor and social satire, however, is just as biting and more importantly, Mars-Jone's protagonist John Cromer makes the awakening to his sexuality a full part of this story whereas Proust tended to dance around that issue with a great deal of magnificent prose that never quite comes out and says it, as it were. In that sense one might say that this series of novels by Mars-Jones could stand for hopeful living as a sense of connectedness despite great odds whereas Proust's darker greatness to me lies in its sense of disconnection desoite having aso much to say. This could be said to be a symbol of where the 20th century literature of alienation was headed at that time of such upheaval in the civilized world. It seems a very short walk from the immense volumes of Porust to the more slender offerings of, say, Samuel Beckett who's message seems similar in a way more succinct but equally poetic manner. Our times are no less dangerous for sure, but even after a partial reading of "Pilcrow" I find the tone more hopeful and every bit as profound and am equally as interested to see where Adam Mars-Jones goes with the story he's begun here.
Extremely well written, humorous and inciteful. A glimpse into what it's like go grown up handicapped and still be positive and in control of one's life. The main character is someone all of us would want to meet.
Wonderful --if long-- novel by one of my favorite writers. Insightful on every page, with a great sense of humor about something not funny at all. Highly recommended; this novel needs to be better known in the US. Why a different title here?
This novel was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 2008.

The narrator, John Cromer, is the first born son of a mildly eccentric Royal Air Force pilot and his neurotic and socially obsessed wife, who is such a beautiful baby that he appears on a magazine cover in post-war Britain. A couple of years later he is tormented by severe joint pains and fever, and is diagnosed with acute rheumatic fever. He is condemned to bed rest, on the advice of his physicians, as no medications are effective in treating this disorder. This inactivity, however, causes his joints to become stiff and immobile, as he actually has Still's disease, a form of juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which leaves him unable to walk, stand or even sit upright.

His parents arrange for him to attend a converted hospital for children with Still's disease, where he encounters a stern but loving matron, and several sadistic physiotherapists and nurses. The other patients, mainly girls, appear to be more fortunate than he, as they were diagnosed earlier and given corticosteroids, a new and potentially revolutionary therapy. The long-term effects of treatment later become tragically apparent; despite his greater immobility, John is actually the most fortunate of the group.

In later childhood, he is transferred to a school for chronically ill boys, where he undergoes an intellectual and sexual awakening as he enters his pre-teen years.

The first 2/3 of this work was elegantly written and a joy to read, with rich descriptions of the life of a chronic child in mid-20th century institutions that were frequently harmful and repressive. Despite these conditions, John manages to get as much fun out of life as he possibly can, and is as mischievous as one would expect from a boy in his situation. For me, the wheels fell off the story after he moved to the new school, and his sexual experiences with his fellow students and his male teachers overshadowed everything else. The story also ended abruptly, as it is supposedly the first book in a trilogy about John Cromer.

I'd give 5 stars to the first 1/3 of the book, 4 stars to the middle 1/3, and 2 stars for the last portion.