Tuesday 31 January 2017

The Unfortunates by B.S. Johnson    {Reviewed by THOMAS}
The 27 sections of this novel are not bound together but come in a box so that, apart from the first and last sections, they can be arranged and read in any order. With unselfsparing autobiographical rigour, Johnson (who, ever a provocateur, stated that “telling stories is telling lies”) tells of a journalist who travels to [Nottingham] to report a football match and is constantly put in mind of previous trips to the city to visit a friend who died young of cancer. Memories of Tony and his decline are intruded upon by unbidden memories of a former lover who once accompanied him on a visit. Johnson gives scrupulous attention to how the concrete mundane either ignites emotional significance or provides a respite from (or impediment to) emotional significance when touched by the seemingly haphazard movements of the mind (hence the unbound sections) as it attempts to face but cannot bring itself to face the inevitability of death. “I fail to remember, the mind has fuses.” The Unfortunates is an impressively alert and careful portrayal of memory’s capacities and shortcomings, and an exacting yet moving portrayal of loss.

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