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House Mother Normal by B. S. Johnson
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House Mother Normal (1971)

by B. S. Johnson

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This experimental novel is on the 1001 list. It is the story of a social evening in an old folks home. The same events are described in chapters narrated by each of the residents, who have varying degrees of cognitive impairment. Each chapter is exactly 21 pages long, with the same events occurring on approximately the same page for each resident's narrative. The final chapter is narrated by the house mother, and we finally hear her version. Since the housemother is herself also an unreliable narrator, we have to infer what has actually transpired. What is clear, however, is that she is a nasty character. All of the narratives are in stream of conciousness style.

The subtitle of this book is "A Geriatric Comedy. I found it sad. I did, however, find it a worthwhile read, and you can decide if it sounds like something you'd like to experience. ( )
2 vote arubabookwoman | May 23, 2011 |
This is another book which was recommended to me earlier this year by another LTer. The least I can say is that it is one of the strangest book I've ever read... The fact that it features residents of an old people's home also raised my interest because my father has been in such a condition for the last twelve months. I hoped I could understand how his brain was working although his reactions to external stimuli are now close to zero.

When I first tried to read this book in July, I had to stop after three pages, because I couldn't understand how it worked. I had another try recently, and I realized that you had to jump from chapter to chapter, forwards and backwards, to understand the whole story. This is something that I had sensed in July, but I didn't like the idea of doing so, because for me a book has a linear feature, if you see what I mean. When making progress through the book, the home and its 'House Mother' definitely appear completely crazy. There is a lot of black humour, scatology, & sex, but also philosophy, with this terrible warning at the end:

'if you are not like
our friends, laugh now, prepare, accept,
worse times are a-coming, nothing is more sure.'

This is a fantastic little book to read. It cannot leave you indifferent. Thinking that it was written by a man in his thirties is incredible. ( )
  Pepys | Oct 29, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0811209814, Paperback)

James Joyce's/Finnegan's Wake. A Symposium featuring Beckett, Jolas, and more.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:28 -0400)

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