One man's account

Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry

Everyone wants to get their own back, and Christie Malry is no exception. Payment is due, he feels: from his seminal encounter with an in-the-way Edwardian office block (debit one scratch on the brickwork), through his employers and co-workers (debit five tons of carbon-copy paper, delivered in apparent error) to the Houses of Parliament themselves (debit tbc.), Malry calculates in a common coinage the wrongs done to him, and acts accordingly to recover those debts. But his accounting is suffering overinflation, people are dying, and the clockwork train of Malry's morality is careering out of control....

It's rare to come across a novel which simultaneously conveys such tension and obsession with detail, while pouring forth exuberance and sheer joy in the craft of writing well. B. S. Johnson's Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry is such a book. The plot kapows from one ecstatic event to another, supported ably by Johnson's literary caprices that Joyce and Borges would sell their aunts for. He stretches the form just far enough to generate plenty of heat, but not so far that it snaps under the strain. This is the bleeding edge of novel construction, and Malry skims along this blade like an angel dancing on a pinhead, living through his dangerous, violent, hilarious exploits like no thriller hero has ever done.

Johnson is---was, God keep him---a stunning writer. Christie Malry leaps off the page, while still being aware on one level of Johnson pulling the strings. Self-referential asides deftly sidestep the territory of the cynical, knowing wink and become respectful acknowledgements of the intelligence of the reader. The characters are all ripe, richly sympathetic and completely, completely believable. The story is genius and the narrative flawless magic. Read this book.