Christie Malry's Own Double Entry (King Penguin)

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9780140068269: Christie Malry's Own Double Entry (King Penguin)

In his heyday, during the 1960s and early 1970s, B. S. Johnson was one of the best-known novelists in Britain. A passionate advocate for the avant-garde, he became famous for his forthright views on the future of the novel and for his unique ways of putting them into practice. Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry, the last novel to be published in his lifetime, is his funniest.

Christie Malry is a simple man. As a young accounts clerk at a confectionery factory in London he learns the principles of Double-Entry Bookkeeping. Frustrated by the petty injustices that beset his life – particularly those caused by the behaviour of authority figures – he determines a unique way to settle his grievances: a system of moral double-entry bookkeeping. So, for every offence society commits against him, Christie exacts recompense. ‘Every Debit must have its Credit, the First Golden Rule’ of the system. All accounts are to be settled, and they are – in the most alarming way.

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Review:

Beautifully constructed, funny and poignant, Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry is regarded as B.S. Johnson's most humorous book but it is a dark, sly humour predicated on the distaste Johnson had for an oppressive post-war British society (an oppression he delineates brilliantly in The Unfortunates).

Christie is, we are told, a simple man, who works in a bank alongside, but excluded from, money. He moves from the bank to learn Double-Entry Bookkeeping in a firm called Tappers, where his disillusionment deepens leading to his Great Idea: he decides to use the principles of Double-Entry (an Aggravation column for offences caused to him, a Recompense column detailing his revenge) to settle his accounts with society.

Johnson (1933-1973), a forgotten hero of the British avant-garde of the 1960s and 70s (he committed suicide when he was not yet 40), wrote seven wonderful novels that echo Joyce and Beckett in their intelligence, inventiveness and genius for language. The books, full of the kind of typographical innovations so beloved of the concrete poets, have been largely ignored since Johnson killed himself but more than deserve to be looked at again; writers as skilled as Johnson are very few and far between indeed. --Mark Thwaite

Review:

‘Delightful to read, highly amusing, and clever’ Daily Telegraph

‘Johnson has undoubtedly written a masterpiece’ Auberon Waugh

‘The most accessible, exuberant and despairing of all his works’ John Lanchester

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Johnson, B.S.
Published by Penguin Books Ltd (1984)
ISBN 10: 0140068260 ISBN 13: 9780140068269
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