B.S. Johnson. The Unfortunates. 1969.
I was able to handle this rarityone of a small number of explicitly multisequential works of print literary fiction, and an even smaller number of unbound books-in-boxesfor a few minutes. Here are my notes.
What a great box - slickly laminated image of purple blobs on a microscope slide, somewhere between Pink Floyd and educational materials for high school biology instructors. Inside are 27 sections, some a single page, some small pamphlets. There is a first section and a last section, explicitly labeled as such, and the middle is to be read in an order of the reader's choosing. The attendant has asked me to reorder my work surface so my elbows are not touching the material when I type, which is great, because he did not object to my openly taking digital photos of everything. Lovely typesetting, with ornate rules across tops of pages. Interesting use of whitespace midsentences. First paragraphs are not indented, which adds to the meticulous and ragged feel of the typography. The first section is a 4-page signature and the last page of it just has the word
Memories of a deceased friend occur in no particular order. A trip to cover a football (soccer) match in a Midlands city frames a psychological dissonance between the author's hack work and his emotional response to its surroundings, the city where a good friend died. Inside the back of the box is a newspaper clippinga sports column by one B.S. Johnsonso perhaps this novel is fully autobiographical.
A six page booklet is composed of a folded sheet with a half sheet stuck in the fold, held in place by a line of glue. I have been asked whether these photos are for personal use. I assure the guy with the tie that I am not a publisher. Heh. I probably could copy the entire book if I was methodical. They should want this material disseminated, so nobody handles their precious copy. "I fail to remember, the mind has fuses." (page unknown) What if Harry Mathews' The Orchard were multisequential? Is there an articulable difference between a multisequential work that is a contrived structure with pieces cut to fit versus one that seems to be such a powerful outpouring of meaning that normal novel structure disintegrates under its pressure, as with Hopscotch? A remarkable section in which the author is watching a soccer match he is being paid to report on in italics, while interrupting the italics with his thoughts in roman. 12 pages the longest thus far. Here's the shortest section:
I regret there is not time to read the entire thing. Until my next visit to the UIUC rare book room. Where they also have the unbound Marc Saporta's Composition #1, in French.