Book Review

Cycle of Violence by Grayson Perry

Photo on 22-03-2014 at 10.23 #2

PHWOAR! Grayson Perry’s highly sexualised, highly violent, highly fucking weird graphic novella from 1992 was my breakfast read this morning. Short, involving and bloody striking, it has left me feeling both sullied and somehow cleansed.

It is about a hyper successful British cyclist called Bradley Gaines who, midway through the Tour de France (which he has already won five times), collapses with physical and emotional exhaustion. He returns home, retires from the sport, has his sponsorship revoked and then, spurred on by the demon echoes of his psychologically-abusive mother, begins to violently murder woman after woman after woman in order to prove to himself that he is not a failure.

Bradley wishes to exert his masculinity, and his crimes are incredibly sexualised. Massive veiny cocks, big vaginas and stab wounds that look like vaginas; S and M outfits, blood, blood, blood… It’s a visually striking book whose images are drawn in a self-described “clunky, even naïve style” (Perry in the Foreword), where the gross acts of violence and the hyper sexualisation combine to make a gritty, though stylised, read.

It reminded me a lot (particularly in terms of publication date) of American Psycho, though Bradley’s capture, psychotherapy, ultimate rehabilitation and complete reacceptance into the world of professional cycling at the end makes for a far funnier, and possibly bleaker ending than Patrick Bateman’s lack of an exit.

This is a text about gender and about sexuality and ultimately implies the route to happiness is to form an identity dictated by someone else – to conform in order to be happy. This, also, is bleak…

Cycle of Violence is a funny book, yes, but it is strange and compelling and full of haunting and graphic images. I’m going to end with one. Enjoy your weekend:

Photo on 22-03-2014 at 10.31

(That image is OF COURSE copyright Grayson Perry and Atlas Press and will be immediately removed upon request. Tweet me @Scott_Hadley if you want it gone.)

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