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B.S. Johnson's Scaffolding: Form, the City, Cancer, Weeds

B.S. Johnson's Scaffolding: Form, the City, Cancer, Weeds B.S. Johnson's fiction makes high demands both of its readers and itself. In his statement that ‘telling stories is telling lies’, and desire to ‘tell the truth’, Johnson involves his process in his writing, dismantling the novel form as he also continues to employ it. This committed slipperiness makes him difficult to write about: to pigeonhole him as a po-faced experimentalist or unorthodox social-realist would be a detrimental simplification of his work. A productive consideration of Johnson, then, might look to unusual places: for example, his writerly movements can be re-considered with Lisa Robertson's work on scaffolding in mind. Scaffolding as critical metaphor is both specific enough in its details, and flexible enough in its scope, to manage Johnson's self-effacing difficulty. Johnson's readers, I argue, are required to do their own scaffolding, whether encountering Albert Angelo's gaps, or piecing together The Unfortunates. Seen thus, reading Johnson's novels is a constructive, if messy, act, a collaboration between reader and writer. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Modernist Cultures Edinburgh University Press

B.S. Johnson's Scaffolding: Form, the City, Cancer, Weeds

Modernist Cultures , Volume 16 (3): 21 – Aug 1, 2021

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Publisher
Edinburgh University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Edinburgh University Press
ISSN
2041-1022
eISSN
1753-8629
DOI
10.3366/mod.2021.0336
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

B.S. Johnson's fiction makes high demands both of its readers and itself. In his statement that ‘telling stories is telling lies’, and desire to ‘tell the truth’, Johnson involves his process in his writing, dismantling the novel form as he also continues to employ it. This committed slipperiness makes him difficult to write about: to pigeonhole him as a po-faced experimentalist or unorthodox social-realist would be a detrimental simplification of his work. A productive consideration of Johnson, then, might look to unusual places: for example, his writerly movements can be re-considered with Lisa Robertson's work on scaffolding in mind. Scaffolding as critical metaphor is both specific enough in its details, and flexible enough in its scope, to manage Johnson's self-effacing difficulty. Johnson's readers, I argue, are required to do their own scaffolding, whether encountering Albert Angelo's gaps, or piecing together The Unfortunates. Seen thus, reading Johnson's novels is a constructive, if messy, act, a collaboration between reader and writer.

Journal

Modernist CulturesEdinburgh University Press

Published: Aug 1, 2021

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