Like a Fiery Elephant. The Story of B. S. Johnson

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«In fact the observation about ‘unbalanced novelists’ ignoring their characters’ sex lives was not made by Harris himself. He was quoting the prolific (but forgotten) Walter Lionel George in his book A Novelist on Novels (1918): ‘Our literary characters are lop-sided because their ordinary traits are fully portrayed while their sex-life is cloaked, minimized or left out […] Therefore the characters in modern novels are all false.’ Johnson was highly impressed by this determination never to be ‘false’, which implied, in his eyes, that it was morally wrong to omit graphic or potentially offensive details. In Albert Angelo, for instance —the book in which he first attempted to tell ‘the truth’ at all costs— he concedes it is a weakness that the hero ‘defecates only once during the whole of this book: what sort of a paradigm of the truth is that?’»

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