Adam Ross - Ladies and Gentlemen (4 stars)

Adam Ross - Ladies and Gentlemen

Comically dark short story collection from the Mr Peanut author

(Jonathan Cape)

In spite of the dark, comically cruel note struck by this short story collection, Ladies and Gentlemen makes surprisingly quick and easy reading. As with his 2010 debut novel, Mr Peanut, Adam Ross suffuses his prose with compelling intrigue and offbeat humour. But these seven tales feel more mature and avoid the structural over-complexity that undermined the astonishing talent he showed in his first book.

Among the best in this collection are opener ‘Futures’ – in which a desperate unemployed man attends a series of surreal job interviews – and ‘When in Rome’, a noirish portrait of fraternal disharmony. Also delightful is ‘Middleman’, a touching story of adolescent awakening that’s seemingly inspired by Ross’ own background as a child actor and student at New York’s prestigious Trinity School.

In contrast, the eponymous final tale doesn’t match up to the intensity of those that precede it. But they’re all vivid depictions of modern anxiety and a lament to humankind’s waning attachment to commitment, deftly told by one of the most accomplished new writers working in the United States today.

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