Book Acquired Recently: B.S. Johnson’s The Unfortunates

Johnson, B.S. The Unfortunates. 1969. New York: New Directions, 2007.

This is one of my favorite books. I already have a copy, but just received a desk copy from the publisher (New Directions is great!) because I’ll be using it in one of my classes this fall. It is more of an art object than a book: it comes unbound in twenty-seven separate sections in a box that also has writing (more of the “book”) on it. Aside from the first and last sections, each chapter is unnumbered, thus one may read it in whatever order one wishes. The structure of the book fits with its theme, the randomness of memory, which is not chronological, but is set off via random reminders instead. It is like a print version of a hypertext story. Well worth reading.

Published by danielshankcruz

I grew up in New York City and lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Goshen, Indiana; DeKalb, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah before coming to Utica, New York. My mother’s family is Swiss-German Mennonite (i.e., it’s an ethnicity, not necessarily a theological persuasion) and my father’s family is Puerto Rican. I have a Ph.D. in English and currently teach at Utica College. I have also taught at Northern Illinois University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. My teaching and scholarship are motivated by a passion for social justice, which is why my research focuses on the literature of oppressed groups, especially LGBT persons and people of color. While I primarily read and write about fiction, I am also a devoted reader of poetry because, as William Carlos Williams writes, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet [people] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Thinkers who influence me include Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Di Brandt, Ana Castillo, Samuel R. Delany, Percival Everett, Essex Hemphill, Jane Jacobs, Walt Whitman, and the New York School of poets. I am also fond of queer Mennonite writers such as Stephen Beachy, Jan Guenther Braun, Lynnette Dueck/D’anna, and Casey Plett. In my free time I’m either reading, writing the occasional poem, playing board games (especially Scrabble, backgammon, and chess), watching sports (Let’s Go, Mets!), or cooking (curries, stews, roasts…).

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