Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Perdam Babylonis Nomen

Gregory Bull Perdam Babylonis Nomen (2013)
It means something about waging war on Babylon, in this case referring to the existence and purpose of someone whose eyes were opened to the perfidy of society by the wonders of punk rock and the opportunity it afforded some for a life outside that society, or if not entirely outside, then at least right on the edge inhabited by Crass, CND, the animal rights movement and others. The detail of the story is autobiographical to the point of placing the reader directly inside the thoughts, only vaguely ordered, of the protagonist, as he considers the innumerable ills of the world and tries to stay alive. It's a delirious stream of variable consciousness taking the form of what may as well be considered a hundred page epic modernist poem, so it's not an easy read by any description, but what fleeting flashes of clarity come through keep it interesting, at least enough to get us through to the last page without succumbing to the fatigue of undifferentiated information overload; and the imagery is very vivid, and there's a point of focus right at the end which makes sense of it all, and ultimately there's a point to reading the thing. As accounts of growing up punk go, I probably prefer Ted Curtis's Darkening Light, but this is noteworthy for its ambition, invoking an experience of its subject matter with all the intensity of a religious vision, albeit a religious vision somehow involving Special Brew and the music of Antisect.

I picked this up mainly out of curiosity, having enjoyed a couple of anthologies edited by Bull; and on the strength of this one, I'd probably liken Bull to a modern William Blake were I more of a tool than I probably am; except I'd be basing such a proposition on what is only a very vague impression of Blake's work because I've never actually read any of it and - in all honesty - I'm unlikely to start now.

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