August 23, 2004

Pay-off line

Something else I should probably read is Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry. At least going by this excerpt from Frank Kermode's review, in the London Review of Books, of Jonathan Coe's biography of its author, Like A Fiery Elephant: The Story of BS Johnson.
The most amusing of the novels (and Johnson had considerable comic talents) is the brief Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry (1973). Christie is a clerk in a Hammersmith cake factory (as Johnson himself had once been). Having mastered double-entry book-keeping (which I have heard described as the invention that made the modern world possible), Christie applies the principle - 'every Debit must have its Credit' - to his own dealings with that world. Whenever he suffers an injustice he credits his side of the ledger appropriately. Beginning with trifles, he progresses to larger evils. 'Socialism not given a chance' is balanced by £311,398.


At January 10, 2008 10:33 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You ought to read all of Johnson (or what's available: don't expect a collected works any time soon). Coe's bio isn't bad, either.

Johnson is one of the few English writers from the last (I had written "this", which shows how old I'm getting) century whom one must read. It's not that he's that good, but that at least he's trying in the right direction. Compare and contrast Martin Amis, who had all the advantages Johnson lacked, but simply couldn't be arsed.


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