Picador celebrates B S Johnson anniversary


The 80th anniversary of the birth of experimental novelist B S Johnson is being honoured with a new collection of material and the re-issue of four of his groundbreaking novels.

Johnson, who was born in February 1933, wrote novels, plays, journalism and film scripts. He committed suicide in 1973.

To mark the anniversary, Picador is re-releasing paperback versions of four of his most acclaimed books - Albert Angelo, Trawl, House Mother Normal, and Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry - with introductions from writers including Andrew Motion and John Lanchester. The books all play with the form of conventional novels, such as House Mother Normal's retelling of the same evening in a nursing home from eight different points of view.

Picador editor Kris Doyle said: "Johnson felt he was picking up the baton of modern fiction from Joyce and Beckett, after he thought everyone else had dropped it and gone back to writing Victorian realism. He played with form, doing blank pages, cutting holes in books, even writing chapters that could be re-ordered, so it’s been a challenge to recreate those."

He added: "I think there is an appetite for work like this - e-reading has shown there are new ways of approaching writing, and people are intrigued by it. He also wrote with a black humour that feels very resonant."

All four books are released on 14th February, priced at £12.99.

On the same date as the re-issues, Picador will release hardback Well Done God! (£25), featuring uncollected material including six plays, journalism, and the non-fiction title Aren’t You Rather Young to be Writing your Memoirs? It has been co-edited by author Jonathan Coe, whose biography of Johnson, Like a Fiery Elephant, is soon to be released by Picador as an e-book for the first time. Academics Philip Tew and Julia Jordan also edited the collection.