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3:AM Cult Hero: B.S. Johnson

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“Telling stories is telling lies, and I want to tell the truth.”

David Quantick on the humour of B.S. Johnson:

B.S. Johnson is one of my favourite comic authors. Dry, yes. Sometimes a bit fond of using long words you’ve never heard of, for comic effect. But he makes me laugh. There’s a deadpan quality to the writing. There’s the odd epigram. There’s a great visual humour in Johnson. But most of all, there’s the Milligan-esque surreal. Johnson’s obsession with form, with constantly going Look it’s not real!, went back to Laurence Sterne — Jonathan Coe has written that something about B.S. Johnson reminded him vaguely of Monty Python — and for me, reading Christy Malry in the mid 1970s, it was the whole kicking in the fourth wall bit.

“I don’t know,” said Headlam, crying into his beer… “But since I seem to be the comic relief in this novel..” “It needs it,” said Christie.

Christy Malry is stuffed with that sort of thing. Characters live solely because Johnson says he likes them.

More: B.S. Johnson website / B.S. Johnson’s Fat Man on a Beach [YouTube] / Richard Marshall interviews Paul Tickell, director of Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry / Andrew Stevens reviews Jonathan Coe’s Like A Fiery Elephant / ‘B.S. Johnson, Brutalist’ by Sukhdev Sandhu / ‘Let’s have a BS Johnson day

First posted: Tuesday, May 4th, 2010.

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