Books by R.S. Jones

Released: Oct. 16, 1995

Once again, Jones (Force of Gravity, 1991) clamps an iron grip on themes of obsession, death, and delusionbut renders the increments of human despair more successfully by charting the course of decay in a proud gay man's losing battle with AIDS. Although William cut himself off from his ranching family by moving to New York and making it big as a broker, when AIDS begins to ravage him he's far from alone. His closest friends, Henry and Susan, stick by him even when his demands threaten to overwhelm their lives. Henry, a constant companion for years (but not a lover), helped William restore his ocean-view house in the Hamptons just as Henry himself was being helped to survivefirst as a graduate student, then as a beginning teacherby William's largess. Meanwhile, Susan, William's first friend in the city, took care of him financially until he found his feet, and 20 years later her life and his are still intertwined. William moves in and out of the hospital as his tumors spread, his body wastes, his irascibility waxes and his mental faculties wane, while both his friends experience waves of guilt and anger at his dependence. Susan strikes back by forming her first romantic relationship in years and keeping it a secret from him, while Henry, on learning that the willwhich William had said would give the Hamptons house to himis nonexistent, abandons his friend completely to the late stages of the disease. He returns in time to take William from a hospice to the house, but when William's family plans to take him back to the ranch, Henry responds by burning the house with his comatose friend inside. The precise detailing of psychological and physical turmoil is overpowering, effectively portraying both the ambivalence of friendship and the inexorability of AIDS. The impact, though, is lessened by a facile ending with more shock value than credibility. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1991

A disappointing first novel that traces a young man's gradual breakdown following his mother's death: The author's deadpan prose keeps the action at such a distance from the reader that it's difficult to develop any feeling—much less sympathy- -for the protagonist. Emmet, a photographer's assistant, lives with his dog in a dilapidated house in New York. An insomniac and recluse, he subsists on raw carrots and soda water and spends his free hours roaming through the forgotten neighborhoods of the city, obsessively searching for violations of the municipal code (which he has memorized). By the time we learn the real reason behind Emmet's collapse (i.e., witnessing his mother's suicide), he has entered a mental institution, where he makes common cause with Louise, self-destructive and even more disturbed than himself. They escape together, but Louise's instability puts her (seemingly) beyond Emmet's reach and gives an ambiguous tone to the story's end. There are flashbacks and recollections throughout—of Emmet's childhood, his grandfather's death at sea, his mother's widowhood and discontent—but these unfold a lament rather than a mystery, a chronicle whose outline is apparent at the onset and receives shading, though not shape, as the narrative progresses. When Emmet, at the end of the story, assumes the burden of caring for Louise, we are meant to see in this the start of his recovery, but—given the extent of Louise's psychoses—it could just as easily be read as another of his delusions. The author's implication that Emmet has regained his balance is not borne out in his description of Emmet's thoughts and actions, and this weakens what is obviously intended as a hopeful ending. A good story badly told: the narrator is aloof and seemingly too afraid of Emmet's madness to enter very deeply into his world. Unconvincing. Read full book review >