February 5th, 2013 will mark the eightieth anniversary of the birth of BS Johnson. All right, so I don’t suppose there will be an excess of bunting out in the streets that day, but many Johnson aficionados - myself included - are pretty excited about it. And to celebrate the occasion, Picador, Johnson’s publishers, have excelled themselves with a superb publishing programme. This is what we can look forward to:
- Single-volume reissues of his novels Albert Angelo, Trawl, House Mother Normal and Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry. All the books feature eye-catching new covers by La Boca, and the first three have new introductions by, respectively, Toby Litt, Jon McGregor and Andrew Motion.
- A new, 471-page hardback volume of rare and out-of-print Johnson material called Well Done God! This has been edited by myself, Philip Tew and Julia Jordan, and contains a facsimile reprint of Johnson’s short prose collection Aren’t You Rather Young to be Writing Your Memoirs?, six stage and television plays (three of them previously unpublished) and more than one hundred pages of uncollected journalism.
- An evening of readings, screenings and discussions at the British Library in London (15th February), to launch the reissued novels and Well Done God!, and to celebrate Johnson’s life and work. Confirmed participants include David Quantick, Julia Jordan and Johnson’s longtime friends and collaborators Michael Bakewell and Philip Pacey.
As if that were not enough BS Johnson goodness, the bfi have given me permission to leak a few details of their forthcoming DVD release on the Flipside label. This will come out on 15 April and will include, among other things, fully restored and cleaned-up versions of You’re Human Like the Rest of Them, Paradigm and Fat Man on a Beach; rare TV documentaries by Johnson on his novel The Unfortunates and his namesake Samuel Johnson; and a recently recovered b/w home video recording of his long-lost television play Not Counting the Savages.
Will Johnson fans be able to cope with so much excitement and activity at once?