Christie Malrys Own Double Entry Paperback – May 25 2001
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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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
'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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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However, this "accessibility" is in the midst of a studiedly experimental text. This is a corruscating satire in which Johnson targets one of the symbols of capitalism, the double entry system. The very basis of accountancy, and the manipulation of finance, Johnson turns this building block on its head as his central character, Christie Malry, a young man with a future, decides that he will live his life accoridng to the principles of double entry.
Johnson's novel has acute observations on a variety of issues in British life that still merit comment. How working class people come to vote conservative, the manner in which people's worth is measured financially; and all of this is in the midst of an angry satire where Malry wreaks vengeance on the system. It is a bitter cycnical novel, with a dark wit.
There is love, sex, and death; and an unusual use for shaving foam. And all of this is presented in a slightly distant way, where Johnson continually turns to the reader and winks, letting you know this is a novel. Characters are aware of their place in fiction, and Johnson deconstructs the novel to let you see how it works.
This description may be off putting, but this is classy fiction. It is funny, and angry. I enjoyed this work, but preferred Johnson's The Unfortunates; which I feel has more depth, and more humanity.
If you enjoyed this you may like Graham Greene's Dr Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party or Michael Dibdin's Dirty Tricks (a Thatcherite satire).
David Quantick, London March 6 1999
Very self-referential, but somehow gets away with it completely. Original idea to write about, and an nteresting style of writing that made me want to go and discover more of his work.