January 8th, 2013


Hierarchy of Christie-ness. (3)

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

What's so funny 'bout
an ethical calculus?
Christie's just a dolt.

This is fordmadoxfraud's second pick for Eleven-Books Club, & I think part of the problem was that he told me how much he was enjoying read it. We were talking about it at carmyarmyofme's New Year's Day party & he was saying that he was really liking it, & that it was making him laugh, so I went into it with moderately high expectations, which it didn't quite meet. This is an experimental novel, I guess; not like The Fifty Year Sword or anything, but full of moments where it flouts the Fourth Wall. You know what it reminds me of? British comedy. Specifically, Douglas Adams. I know I say that the Culture novels remind me of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but that is in terms of ideas. B.S. Johnson-- whose name I'm sure I've heard, but I can't place, & no, I'm not thinking of B.F. Skinner-- has a similar writing style. Conversational & self-aware. You know, come to think of it there is a lot of British writing with the same conventions of self-awareness. J.R.R. Tolkien has a few moments where the story addresses the fact that there is a story; not just Sam & Frodo who constantly talk about being characters in a book, but like, the weird fox who shows up & thinks about how strange it is to see hobbits sleeping outside under a tree & whatnot. Anyhow, the central conceit of Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry is that the main character, who is rather dim, constructs a system of debits & credits in order to balance out the ills of his life-- ranging from his freedom to walk where he wants being restricted by a building in front of him to bigger ideas like Socialism never getting a fair shake in England. & eventually of course the novel escalates from petty revenge to criminal acts to outright terrorism. I guess my disconnect is that I would have really preferred the story be an actual piece of philosophy, a real musing on ethics, but instead it mostly acts as a statement about, what, the lack of meaning & the futility of any attempt to impose meaning on reality? With the pragmatic comforts of The Shrike-- read here, food & sex-- as the unacknowledged real balm? Or am I just a puzzlewit for looking for meaning, anyhow? I don't think so; you can't name your character Jesus-- come on, "Christie" isn't exactly subtle-- without expecting people to look for a moral. Regardless, I didn't dislike this; it was easy enough to read, & charming enough. Like I said, if I hadn't thought I was going to like it, I would have liked it more, if that makes sense. I certainly found it more agreeable than Novel with Cocaine, I'll say that much.