book cover of House Mother Normal

House Mother Normal

(1971)
A novel by

 
 
BS Johnson's fifth novel, subtitled "A Geriatric Comedy", is inventive, unique and wonderfully humane. Like the rest of his hugely important and criminally overlooked work this is as funny and as profound a book as any you are ever likely to read. Consisting of eight 21-page monologues by each of the named inhabitants of an old people's home, and a final piece by the House Mother herself, Johnson, without any hint of sentimentality, draws out an evening scene in which each of the NERs (no effective relatives) suffers at the hands of the House Mother. Before the start of each monologue a CQ score is given (marking a regularly used test for senile dementia: out of 10 simple questions, such as where are you now? what day is this? the 10 answers represent compos mentis on a sliding scale to infirmity). This enables Johnson, through his usual playful use of language and typography, to represent in his writing the almost incommunicable. The old people suffer, some can barely speak, others are dominated, obsessed with particular memories that mark important failures or accomplishments, moments which resonate now daily life is so dull.

Johnson is in the company of Beckett here, able to use language itself to show up what language's limitations do to our ability to communicate, and how they form/inform his writing about that inability. Focusing on old age, its degradations and disintegrations, House Mother Normal manages to be both profound and touching. For an avant garde novel to accomplish this and yet be hugely readable, entertaining and very funny is testament to the huge skills of one of the finest writers England has recently produced. --Mark Thwaite

Genre: Literary Fiction

Used availability for B S Johnson's House Mother Normal

Hardback Editions

April 1986 : USA Hardback

Title: House Mother Normal: A Geriatric Comedy (New Directions Paperbook)
Author(s): B S Johnson
ISBN: 0-8112-0980-6 / 978-0-8112-0980-9 (USA edition)
Publisher: New Directions
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


May 1971 : UK Hardback
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Title: House Mother Normal: A Geriatric Comedy
Author(s): B S Johnson
ISBN: 0-00-221324-9 / 978-0-00-221324-0 (UK edition)
Publisher: HarperCollins Distribution Services
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   


Paperback Editions

August 2016 : USA Paperback
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Title: House Mother Normal
Author(s): B S Johnson
ISBN: 0-8112-2214-4 / 978-0-8112-2214-3 (USA edition)
Publisher: New Directions
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


February 2013 : UK Paperback
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Title: House Mother Normal
Author(s): B S Johnson
ISBN: 1-4472-0038-1 / 978-1-4472-0038-3 (UK edition)
Publisher: Picador
Availability: Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


August 1997 : UK Paperback
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Title: House Mother Normal: A Geriatric Comedy
Author(s): B S Johnson
ISBN: 0-906427-62-2 / 978-0-906427-62-0 (UK edition)
Publisher: Bloodaxe Books Ltd
Availability: Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


April 1986 : USA Paperback
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Title: House Mother Normal: A Geriatric Comedy
Author(s): B S Johnson
ISBN: 0-8112-0981-4 / 978-0-8112-0981-6 (USA edition)
Publisher: New Directions Publishing
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


September 1973 : UK Paperback
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Title: House Mother Normal: A Geriatric Comedy
Author(s): B S Johnson
ISBN: 0-7043-1049-X / 978-0-7043-1049-0 (UK edition)
Publisher: Quartet Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


Audio Editions

February 2018 : USA MP3 CD
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Title: House Mother Normal: A Geriatric Comedy
Author(s): B S Johnson
ISBN: 1-5436-8559-5 / 978-1-5436-8559-6 (USA edition)
Publisher: Audible Studios on Brilliance
Availability: Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


Kindle Editions

August 2016 : USA, Canada Kindle edition
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Title: House Mother Normal
Author(s): B S Johnson
Publisher: New Directions
Availability: Amazon   Amazon CA