PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 June, 2009, 12:00am


by Adam Mars-Jones

Faber and Faber


If you're looking for a piece of easy summer reading, Pilcrow is probably not for you. If, on the other hand, you're after an ambitious, challenging, occasionally difficult but gorgeously written meditation on death, decay, language and identity, then Adam Mars-Jones' latest novel might be your cup of cocoa. Represented by this symbol, ?, a pilcrow is the space between paragraphs - an absence that is also a presence. This could well describe our hero - if that is the word - John Cromer, who does a good job of self-definition himself. 'I'm not sure I can claim to have taken my place in the human alphabet, even as its honorary 27th letter. I'm more like a specialised piece of punctuation, a cedilla, umlaut or pilcrow, hard to track down on the keyboard of a computer or typewriter.' Struck down by Stills disease, a rare condition that attacks the bones, Cromer is as bedridden as Samuel Beckett's Molloy. Like Molloy, he creates an entire universe from the world before and behind him, the present and the rather less stable past. Pilcrow is bleakly funny, verbally inventive and unlike anything else out there.