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Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry by B. S. Johnson

Far from kicking against the pricks they
love their position and vote conservative. 
I know, or knew, very little about B. S. Johnson, except in the capacity of disinterested bookseller, wherein he was a singular, if not significant, thorn in my side, his loose leafed volume, The Unfortunates, causing much consternation among customers who had no idea a) how to read the damned thing and b) HOW TO PUT IT BACK TOGETHER AGAIN. Indeed, he presaged the bookselling omnishambles of publishers like Phaidon with their book-in-a-bubble, or the ones with bloody rounded bottoms, or odd aspect ratios meaning they never ever fit or even stay on the damned shelves, and don't get me started on FUCKING SPIRAL BINDING.... ahem. Where was I? Oh yes. He had come to my attention only when someone brought me a copy of Albert Angelo and complained that someone had torn holes right through the pages. At the time, I somehow managed to hold my tongue, even when she went and found all of the copies we had to show me this vandal had done it to every single one, in exactly the same place. I did, however, point out that given the similarity of the damage, to the visible eye exact to only a few microns, then it was likely to be deliberate and at the author's behest. She was aghast. He came back to haunt me when I realised we'd been using stray chapters of The Unfortunates crumpled up as packing material. 



Phaidon, you bunch of bastards.
Anyway, that experimental formatting is a large part of his charm (with apologies to him posthumously as I understand he equated the term experimental with unsuccessful). The other large part is that most of his novels are damned hilarious. But Christie Malry, the titular aggrieved accountant who decides he should open his own double-book on the credits and debits of life, is particularly funny, and sad, and angry, and with remarkable prescience suggesting the rising anger that the age of the internet has made possible with its instant access to famous people and ancient establishments. There are many people who have written more eloquently and with better research and tighter conclusions than me, on things like the undercurrent of dark pessimism throughout, his strong political convictions which poke up sharply in places, or his frankly brilliant postmodernism, so I shan't bore you with my own reactions. Rather, I will highlight and provide a useful glossary for future readers of one of the aspects I found most entertaining. Johnson's intermittent verbiage is deliberate, unnatural, and is usually also hilarious. So, here is a list of those head-scratchingly, dictionary-searchingly, reading-haltingly unusual words that forced me to turn down corners so I could come back to them later to find out what they meant. Page numbers refer to my Picador edition from 2001, and all humour is taken from the context. Have a read and a giggle.

P12 - exeleutherostomise - to speak out freely, especially in an inappropriate moment
P17 - incunabula - an early printed book, especially pre-1501
P29 - fastigium - the apex or summit of something
P40 - vermiferous - producing worms
P42 - helminthoid - vermicular, wormlike
P62 - nucifrage - nutcracker, from nucifraga caryocatactes, the Spotted Nutcracker
P65 - ventripotent - having a large belly or appetite (or both)
P91 - vermifuge - referring to something that acts as a drug to cause expulsion or death of intestinal worms
P104 - sufflamination - obstruction or impediment
P145 - brachyureate - I have no fucking idea!

There are also words like retripotent, campaniform, sphacelated, and ungraith but I can't seem to find which page they're on. 



Did you know they'd made a film? It looks terrible, but I wonder...

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How's about that then?

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