The Unfortunates

Overview

A gift “book in a box” by one of Britain’s greatest modern writers, hailed as “a triumph” by The New York Times Book Review.
B.S. Johnson’s lost classic has been showered with praise: New York Magazine named The Unfortunates one of their Ten Best Books of 2008, listed in The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2008, and The Los Angeles Times declared it to be “his most daring work.”
A legendary 1960s experiment in form, The Unfortunates is B. ...

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Overview

A gift “book in a box” by one of Britain’s greatest modern writers, hailed as “a triumph” by The New York Times Book Review.
B.S. Johnson’s lost classic has been showered with praise: New York Magazine named The Unfortunates one of their Ten Best Books of 2008, listed in The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2008, and The Los Angeles Times declared it to be “his most daring work.”
A legendary 1960s experiment in form, The Unfortunates is B. S. Johnson’s famous “book in a box,” in which the chapters are presented unbound, to be read in any order the reader chooses. A sportswriter, sent to a Midlands town on a weekly assignment, finds himself confronted by ghosts from the past when he disembarks at the train station. Memories of one of his best, most trusted friends, a tragically young victim of cancer, begin to flood through his mind as he attempts to go about the routine business of reporting a soccer match.
The Unfortunates is a book of passionate honesty and dark, courageous humor: a meditation on death and a celebration of friendship which also offers a remarkably frank self-portrait of its author.

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Editorial Reviews

Charles Taylor - The New York Times Book Review
“Far from some modernist stunt, the form of the book dovetails beautifully with Johnson’s subject–the accidental yet persistent nature of memory….This book, with no belief in God, no hope of heaven, makes you feel the stuff of life as sacred, and our inability to hold on to it as damnation enough for anyone to be made to bear.”
Samuel Beckett
“A most gifted author.”
Sam Anderson - New York Magazine
“You’ll fall in love.”
Josef Braun - VUE Weekly
“Beautifully reprinted with an invaluable introductory essay ... The Unfortunates allows us a peculiar feeling of discovery.”
Charles Taylor
…artists have to be judged by how well they've made their chosen methods work for themselves, and The Unfortunates is a triumph of both scrupulous faithfulness to experience and to narrative rejiggering. Here, I should hasten to add that for readers—those sometimes forgotten creatures who quite rightly don't care much about form, preferring to invest themselves in narrative, emotion and character—The Unfortunates, despite its unorthodox presentation, offers exactly that…In both its style—the controlled rushes of language, the pileups of clauses that are never less than lucid—and in its unflinching depiction of mortality encroaching upon life, what might be called the quotidian abyss, The Unfortunates recalls Johnson's revered Beckett, and the onslaught of language in plays like "Not I" or "That Time."
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811217439
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 5/28/2008
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 455,797
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

B. S. Johnson (Bryan Stanley Johnson) (1933-1973) was an English experimental novelist, poet, literary critic and filmmaker. He was born into a working-class family, was evacuated from London during World War II, and left school at sixteen to work as an accountant. However, he taught himself Latin in the evenings, and with this knowledge, managed to pass the university exam for King's College London. After he graduated Johnson wrote a series of increasingly experimental and often acutely personal novels. A critically acclaimed film adaptation of the last of the novels published while he was alive, Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry was released in 2000. Increasingly depressed by his failure to succeed commercially, and beset by family problems, Johnson committed suicide.

Jonathan Coe is a journalist who writes for the Guardian and the London Review of Books. He is the author of a biography of Humphrey Bogart and three novels.

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