In a state of splendid self-isolation, I’ve been reading Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry (1973) by B.S. Johnson.
It’s about a frustrated office worker who goes to ridiculous lengths to reclaim his dignity. In fact, he becomes a terrorist so I hesitate to mention him as someone to relate to BUT it’s all played for absurdist laughs against a 1970s (rather than post-9/11) backdrop and there are other things going on in this extraordinary novel too. It’s very short and very funny and very Twentieth-Century in tone while at the same time being fourth wall-breaking with a comedic lightness of touch. I recommend it.
Here’s Johnson’s description of Christie’s office:
The atmosphere was acrid with frustration, boredom and jealousy, black with acrimony, pettiness and bureaucracy.
I think that’s excellent. B.S. Johnson saw the novel as a dated outlet for storytelling and his way of rescuing it was to write from a spiritual/internal/reflective viewpoint: perspectives that TV and film would struggle (and continue to struggle) with. And it’s a good reflective description of an office. It’s certainly how my old workplace felt to me.
The novel begins with a calculation worthy of an Escapologist: how long ’til retirement? He works out that he can retire “early” but is still appalled by his lot:
Christie was silent even at the information that he had only forty-three and not forty-eight years before he was free.
Anyway, it’s a good book. You can read a little more about it here but I advise against spoiling the plot for yourself if you plan to read it.
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