In his heyday, during the 1960s and early 1970s, B. S. Johnson was one of the best-known novelists in Britain. A passionate advocate for the avant-garde, he became famous for his forthright views on the future of the novel and for his unique ways of putting them into practice. Johnson said of the acerbically comic and exuberant Albert Angelo that it was where he ‘really discovered what he should be doing’. On page 163 of this extraordinary book is one of the most surprising lines in English fiction. But you should start at the beginning.
The eponymous Albert is an architect by training but a supply teacher out of necessity. Feeling that he is failing at both, and haunted by a failed love affair, he begins to question what he wants to achieve. Using a number of original narrative techniques Johnson attempts to reproduce life (and its travails) as closely as possible through fiction, while at the same time revelling in the impossibility of such a task.