Like his recent stories (Monopolies of Loss, 1993), Mars- Jones' first novel draws inspiration from the AIDS epidemic, but does so indirectly. It's a smart parable of desire and denial, with a hard-earned wit and an elegiac sense of humor. Digressive and deliberately arch, this novel in the form of a monologue recounts the long monogamous relationship of two gay men in contemporary London. William, a failed actor who makes a living doing voice-overs for advertisements, chatters on about his less effusive lover, Terry, an airline worker. But their happiness is threatened by disease. Not AIDS, but William's chronic renal failure, a kidney disease that's limited his life since he was 16. This ``dowry of damage'' prevents William from enjoying the food and drink he so loves to serve guests. His flawless dinner parties reduce him to a state of constant and unfulfilled desire. William delights in tales of his well-developed hospitality, welcoming both the closeted vicar who gobbles cashews and the yuppie cokehead next door who tries to chop off his own hand. The long wait for an organ transplant provokes William to dwell on potential donors and those who fail to sign their cards. Meanwhile, William's sexual desire channels itself into pornographic fantasies centered on one tantalizing star whose career he follows for signs of ill health. When William's ``blind date'' with some else's kidney finally comes, his narrative transforms into a post-op dream induced by fever and pent-up yearning. Mars-Jones attends to word and image with a poet's touch. Beneath the campy surface is a fiction of cool intelligence and controlled passion.