B. S. Johnson  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

B. S. Johnson (Bryan Stanley Johnson) (5 February,1933 - 13 November,1973) was an English experimental novelist, poet, literary critic and film-maker.

Johnson was born into a working class family, was evacuated from London during World War II and left school at sixteen to work variously as as an accounting clerk, bank junior and clerk at Standard Oil Company. However, he taught himself Latin in the evenings, attended a year's pre-university course at Birkbeck College, and with this preparation, managed to pass the university exam for King's College London.

After he graduated with a 2:2, Johnson wrote a series of increasingly experimental and often acutely personal novels. Travelling People (1963) and Albert Angelo (1964) were relatively conventional (though the latter became famous for the cut-through pages to enable the reader to skip forward), but The Unfortunates (1969) was published in a box with no binding (readers could assemble the book any way they liked) and House Mother Normal (1971) was written in purely chronological order such that the various characters' thoughts and experiences would cross each other and become intertwined, not just page by page, but sentence by sentence. Johnson also made numerous experimental films, published poetry, and wrote reviews, short stories and plays.

A critically acclaimed film adaptation of the last of the novels published while he was alive, Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry (1973) was released in 2000.

At the age of 40, increasingly depressed by his failure to succeed commercially, and beset by family problems, Johnson committed suicide. Johnson was largely unknown to the wider reading public at the time of his death, but has a growing cult following. Jonathan Coe's 2004 biography Like a Fiery Elephant (winner of the 2005 Samuel Johnson prize) has already led to a renewal of interest in Johnson's work. The 2006 album called Live a Little by The Pernice Brothers includes a song called B.S. Johnson about the writer. The chorus includes the line "Jammed into a plot where you never would fit."


Bibliography (novels)

Bibliography (anthologies edited by B S Johnson)

  • The Evacuees (1968).
  • London Consequences: A Novel (1972).
  • All Bull: The National Servicemen (1973).
  • You Always Remember the First Time (1975).

Selected filmography

  • You're Human Like the Rest of Them (1967).
  • Paradigm (1969).
  • Unfair (1970).
  • Fat Man On A Beach (1973).


  • Jonathan Coe. (2004) Like A Fiery Elephant: The Story of B.S. Johnson. Picador.

Academic Studies

  • Philip Tew. (2001) B. S. Johnson: A Critical Reading. Manchester University Press.
  • Philip Tew, Glyn White. (2007) Re-reading B.S. Johnson. Palgrave Macmillan

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "B. S. Johnson" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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