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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Christie Malry's
Own Double-Entry


by
B.S.Johnson


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry



Title: Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry
Author: B.S.Johnson
Genre: Novel
Written: 1973
Length: 187 pages
Availability: Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry - US
Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry - UK
Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry - Canada
Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry - India
Christie Marly règle ses comptes - Deutschland
Christie Malrys doppelte Buchführung - Deutschland
  • Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry was made into a movie in 2000, directed by Paul Tickell and with Nick Moran as Christie Malry.

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Our Assessment:

A : 'Funny, Brutalist, and Short' (just as Christie epigrammatised a novel should be)

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 8/5/2002 Michael Schmitt
The NY Times Book Rev. A- 29/9/1985 John House
taz . 30/4/2002 J. Friedrich-Freksa
Die Welt . 15/2/2003 Wieland Freund
Die Zeit A (25/2002) Peter Urban-Halle


  From the Reviews:
  • "(I)n der Tradition des experimentellen Erzählens und genauer noch in der Tradition jenes abgründigen angelsächsischen Humors, den Autoren wie Sterne, Joyce oder Flann O'Brien begründet haben. Das hat diesen kurzen Roman frisch gehalten, über Aufstieg und Ende des Thatcherismus hinaus bis in die Tage von "New Labour" und "Neuer Mitte". " - Michael Schmitt, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "While some of Johnson's tactics may seem dated, his questions remain provocative, his chilly humor pointed and sharp." - John House, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Das Besondere an dem Buch ist der direkte Dialog, in dem Autor und Protagonist stehen. Johnson beschreibt nicht aus literarischer Distanz einen abgedrehten Menschen, dem es gefällt, heimlich eine enorme Macht auszuüben. Stattdessen lässt auch er sich von Christie kontrollieren. Dieser verlangt zum Beispiel, die Geschichte müsse brutal sein und komisch. Das ist sie wirklich, und experimentierfreudig und überraschend ist sie auch. Eine britisch-böse Geschichte über die versteckte Anarchie." - Jenny Friedrich-Freksa, taz

  • "Nicht im Erzählten liegt die Wahrheit, sondern in der Reflexion über das Erzählte. (...) Christie Malrys doppelte Buchführung zum Zweiten –- in der Hoffnung, dass diesmal auch die Leser mitziehen. Versprochen wird: ein geistreicher und grotesker Roman mit lauter kuriosen Einfällen." - Peter Urban-Halle, Die Zeit
  Quotes:
  • "The most amusing of the novels (and Johnson had considerable comic talents) is the brief Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry (1973). (...) There is much enjoyable fun at the expense of the author's own narcissism." - Frank Kermode, London Review of Books (5/8/2004)

  • "Christie Malry is a modern revenge tragedy -- Thomas Kyd in synthetic fibres -- and reflects the submerged discontents of a writer who had once been a bored office clerk." - Henry Hitchings, Times Literary Supplement (18/6/2004)

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       "Christie Malry was a simple person." So begins the novel which tells the young man's tale, focussing on the time from when, barely seventeen, he first gets a job to ... well, to the end.
       His family is not wealthy, and he wants to be near money so simple Christie takes a position at a bank. It is a less than satisfactory experience, and so he decides to become an accountant, "in order to see where the money came from, how it was manipulated, and where it went." He enrolls in night classes, and meanwhile goes to work at Tapper's, a huge sweets and cakes manufacturer.
       Accountancy is the key, as he becomes quite enthralled by the Double-Entry system. Give and take, debit and credit -- or aggravation and recompense, as he defines it for his own purposes. It leads to Christie Malry's Great Idea: an accounting of his life. He starts keeping book.
       It's a fair idea, and in Johnson's hands blossoms very nicely indeed. Christie adds up his disappointments ("General educational trauma: 35.00" or -- our favourite -- "General diminution of Christie's life caused by advertising: 50.00") and the compensations (four misshapen chocolates: "0.01"). There are some grand aggravations, but Christie is not without ambition and resorts to some aggro of his own, to balance things out. Christie gets quite carried away (there is spectacular, if often seemingly incidental, carnage in this novel), but life has a funny way of balancing things out. Christie goes on until he has everything, and that turns out to be just a tad too much.
       There are five actual ledger pages in the novel, Christie's accounting as it progresses, right up to the writing off of the spectacular final bad debt. Most of the novel, however, follows Christie's life and (mis)adventures, a rollicking, clever, dark tale, well-told in a cascade of short chapters (with some long headings).
       Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry seems almost effortless. There's the usual Johnsonian play and experimentation -- the ledger sheets, for example, or the intrusive authorial presence making itself felt -- but Johnson goes about it with a minimum of fuss. In one exchange with his office supervisor Christie explains he was absent from work because of his mother's funeral:

SUPERVISOR: Why didn't you ask permission ?
CHRISTIE: She died at very short notice. In fact with no notice at all, on the evening before last.
SUPERVISOR: Long enough for you to arrange the funeral for the next day ?
CHRISTIE: There wasn't any more time. It's a short novel.
       Elsewhere he describes some of Christie's past before faltering. He soon decides:
I'm going to pack this in soon: both everything and nothing in a person's past and background may be significant.
       Johnson is completely upfront in his writing, reminding readers at most every turn that they are reading fiction -- and what that means.
       There are some fine and very comic scenes in the novel. The characters are also well-drawn, from Christie's feeble oppressors to his colourful colleague Headlam and his love-interest, the Shrike ("He was very uncomplicated, Christie, and in the Shrike he had met his simple match."). Christie's other doings -- his small and large acts of sabotage -- and his final undoing are also very well done.
       Johnson himself appears, as author, engaging in dialogue with his invention at one point. "Most people won't read it", Christie warns him, but that would be a shame. Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry is well worth reading -- both a great deal of fun and thoughtful, too.
       Christie epigrammatises that: "The novel should now try simply to be Funny, Brutalist, and Short". Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry qualifies, on all counts, but also on several more. A resounding success, certainly recommended.

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Links:

Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry: Reviews: Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry -- the movie: B. S. Johnson: Other books by B. S. Johnson under review: Books about B.S.Johnson under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • Consider the novels of Geoff Nicholson, similarly black and fun
  • Works by fellow innovative writer, Ann Quin
  • See also Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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About the Author:

       English author B. S. (Bryan Stanley) Johnson (1933-73) studied at King's College, London. He wrote several highly acclaimed novels, as well as a play and poetry. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1967.

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