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Customer Review

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poor design, republish books separately, The Omnibus is horrid!, 5 Sept. 2006
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This review is from: Omnibus: Albert Angelo, House Mother Normal & Trawl (3 titles) (Paperback)
BS Johnson seems to be having a renaissance at the moment, which is about time. I first came across an old 1984 copy of House Mother Normal in a London Waterstones over a decade ago. That shop had loads of old books still at the original price, so my novel was only £3.50. Eventually someone cottoned on and changed the prices, but I bought a lot of now out of print books, finding writers like Raymond Roussel and Machado Assis (both writers also recently receiving new and revised printings).

I loved this novel, soon tracking down Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry, but House Mother Normal is still my favourite, a study of a group of people in a geriatric home written in an almost Oulipian manner, the layout (as in many of his works) being an important element of the novel.

Also in print is "The Unfortunates", a book of loose pages in a box, I recommend you find this too.

The design of this book is frankly awful. It appears to justify the price of a £14.99 paperback reprint set of novels, they give it a dust jacket. Add to that, the cover design is dull and unattractive doesn't help. It does faithfully follow the typesetting of the originals (even the holes are still there!), but I'm sure Johnson would not have liked the omnibus idea, three books in one is cumbersome and unwieldily. These books are not part of a trilogy, so don't really belong together like this. if you have the money and patience to buy the books separately, I'd recommend doing so...

When I first read house Mother Normal, I thought this was the way novels should be written, forget the 'experimental' label. I still think this, the text on the page, the image of text is almost as important as what the words express. Letters need to move on a page! Image, style and design of a work of fiction seems frowned upon as pretentiousness in England. Perhaps the distrust of something foreign or different, perhaps because it seems to cover deficiencies in the writing. Whatever the reason it seems a shame we don't have more novels like House Mother Normal.

Other books you MAY like:

Samuel Beckett- Any really, Johnson greatly admired Beckett. Try the trilogy of novels: Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable (published as an omnibus too!)

Alasdair Gray- Any but I'd recommend Lanark: Life in Four Books. Someone else who thought the presentation of the text is important.

The OULIPO Condependium, and it's associated writers like Georges Perec, Marcel Benebou and Harry Mathews. Atlas press do a great selection of European translations of experimental fiction. Raymond Queneau has a lot in good translation, although much may be out of print.

Richard Brautigan, who also has a biography (by his daughter). I recommend my favourites: In Watermelon Sugar and The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western.

Gilbert Sorrentino- Any (there's a lot to choose from).

Flann O'Brien- Any.

Little to do with BS Johnson, but I'm going to recommend him anyway: Roland Topor and his novels "The Tenant" and "Joko's Anniversary". I just like them, none come with holes or loose pages I'm afraid. In the same vein I also recommend Stefan Themerson too.

Ann Quinn- You may like the novels, I can't say I did, perhaps I was in the wrong mood at the time. If you like mad women authors try Unica Zurn first.

Tristram Shandy- The novel, not the film, although I'm told the film is good (I better go add it to my Amazon wishlist).

McSweeney's Quartery. You may like this, to be honest I didn't and cancelled my order, favouring it's superior sister magazine "The Believer". But it does have an Oulipo magazine coming up soon.

Finally, obviously, "Like a Fiery Elephant" by Jonathan Coe, the critically adored biography of Johnson, hopefully inspiring publishers to reprint more of Johnsons work.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Mar 2008 17:27:54 GMT
Omnibus is fine

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Jan 2009 23:13:23 GMT
The Omnibus has a horrid design.The dust jacket on a paperback is naff, the illustration half-hearted. Do you mean the contents? The contents are fine, but I still think they deserve to be published separately (as long as they find a better designer).

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2009 16:20:55 GMT
totally agree bardamu. and they even managed to cut the hole *ever-so-slightly* in the wrong place in albert angelo. unforgivable.

and, frankly, it's an odd threesome. they shouldn't be grouped in this way.
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