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B. S. Johnson


He could not, at this point, see where his radical aesthetic must inevitably take him: either towards Beckettian minimalism or to a sort of insane Joycean inclusiveness. (Jonathan Coe: Like a Fiery Elephant)

Bryan Stanley Johnson was born in 1933 in Hammersmith, London. He worked as a bank clerk and then read English at King’s College, London. He worked as a teacher and sports journalist before becoming a full-time writer, editor and television producer. He was also poetry editor of the Transatlantic Review. He committed suicide in 1971 soon after completing See The Old Lady Decently, based on the death of his mother.

His novels are highly experimental and he was much influenced by Joyce and Beckett. He criticised other novelists for trying to tell stories as though Ulysses (let alone The Unnamable) had never happened. He used a variety of postmodernist techniques, including author presence, talking to the readers, blank pages and, in the case of The Unfortunates, a series of loose pages than can be read in any order the reader wants.

Books about B. S. Johnson

Jonathan Coe: Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B. S. Johnson

Other sites

B. S. Johnson
B. S. Johnson at the Complete Review
B.S. Johnson, Brutalist
The Humour of B.S. Johnson
Retripotent (review of biography and novels but a lot about Johnson)
Fuck All This Lying (review of biography with a lot about Johnson)


1963 Travelling People (novel)
1964 Statement Against Corpses (with Zulfikar Ghose) (stories)
1964 Albert Angelo (novel)
1964 Poems
1964 Street Children
1965 You’re Human Like the Rest of Them (drama)
1969 The Unfortunates (novel)
1970 Three Gregynog Englynion
1971 House Mother Normal (novel)
1972 Poems Two
1973 Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry (novel)
1973 Aren’t You Rather Young To Be Writing Your Memoirs? (stories)
1973 Everybody Knows Somebody Who’s Dead (stories)
1973 A Dublin Unicorn (poetry)
1975 See The Old Lady Decently (novel)
2013 Well Done God! (selected prose and drama)