I don’t know if I would agree with that description now, but it was certainly on my mind at the time. My introduction to B.S. Johnson was the King Penguin reissue of Christie Malry which came out in 1984, and I believe I started writing The Accidental Woman a few months later. (Incidentally the title of the novel was always simply Maria, until I came up with a new one at the insistence of Colin Haycraft at Duckworth when he published it in 1987. ‘Maria’ appealed to me as a title because it was an homage to all the Beckett protagonists whose names began with M — Murphy, Molloy, Malone etc.) The phrase ‘funny, brutalist and short’ — which I don’t think I recognized at the time as an echo of Samuel Johnson — certainly appealed to me and indeed I quoted it in some of the many letters which I sent out to publishers with my manuscript. Christie Malry, which I had read so recently, is clearly a huge influence on The Accidental Woman, mainly because of the idea of the narrator being in a close and dialogic relationship with his hero, or in this case heroine. But then this was the very aspect of Henry Fielding’s technique that I was exploring in my PhD thesis, so Fielding is probably the older and more fundamental influence.
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