We continue an online series of former Best of Young Novelists introducing writers from the fourth edition, with Jeffrey Eugenides (1996) on Adam Thirlwell.

This is the second time Adam Thirlwell has been included in a Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists (under forty) but it won’t be the last. After publishing his first book at the age of three, (Mr) Thirlwell (then known as ‘Foo’ for a noise he liked to make) has continued his steady ascent in the literary world. Now, he gives us ‘Slow Motion’, a work notable not only for its linguistic brilliance but for the fact that the author wrote it in green crayon on the wall of his nursery . . .

All right, Adam Thirlwell’s not that young any more. He’s thirty-four, and thank God for that. Now I can read him for pure pleasure, without regretting my misspent years in juvenile detention. The pleasures of ‘Slow Motion’ are manifold. The playfulness of the language, the way the mandarin wit, line by line, consorts with grisly or louche material, is a signature we’ve come to recognize from Thirlwell’s previous work. But there’s an emotional rawness here that departs from the philosophical order of Politics and the narrative formality of The Escape. Edison Lo, Thirlwell’s narrator, is alive not only to mathematics but to postmodernity, where a thought may wander into your head ‘the way you see a cat drift through amateur porn footage’. And isn’t that what we’re looking for in the fiction we read, reality apprehended by a superior mind and yet not estranged by the effort, still containing things we recognize and can feel strongly about? The world rarified by art, yet kept down to earth. This is what I feel is happening in Thirlwell’s new fiction, and I can’t wait to read more.


For more about the author, including critical perspectives and in-depth biographies, visit the British Council’s web pages on Adam Thirlwell.

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