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Because that’s the sort of (boring?) person I am, I read The Unfortunates in that order. And it worked well: the narrative remains disjointed yet trackable, the evolutions of the characters comprehensible and interesting.
One of these days I’ll have to try it again after some proper shuffling.
Ha, Levi – I guess that’s one way to avoid the problem of reconstructing the original order after you’ve shuffled them — don’t shuffle them in the first place! But of course you know that Johnson asks you to shuffle them. Come to think of it, few books provide such an explicit way to demonstrate your disregard for the author’s intention.
This was a timely request from a reader — she had shuffled away the original order, and then realized she couldn’t reconstruct it. It was timely because it reminded me of a nice analogue — Walser’s microscripts, which are numbered, translator Bernofsky tells us, to reflect “the (apparently random) order in which the texts were preserved by Walser’s guardian Carl Seelig — at a time when it was not obvious that it might someday be possible to date these works.” #
Also, it occasioned my (re?)discovery of Peter Robins’s excellent blog, which proposes a Bloomsday-like tradition around The Unfortunates: