cover image Punk Paradox: A Memoir

Punk Paradox: A Memoir

Greg Graffin. Hachette, $30 (384p) ISBN 978-0-306-92458-3

Graffin (Population Wars), singer of the punk group Bad Religion, explores the underside of punk rock’s chaotic surface in this scattershot memoir. He recounts a wholesome Wisconsin boyhood followed by an anxious California adolescence spent in the L.A. punk scene of the early 1980s; the band’s success as a venerable touring group; and the development of his side gig teaching evolutionary biology, first at UCLA and then Cornell. Graffin’s narrative is not the typical punk confessional. He laments the “nihilistic, ugly and artless” culture of brawling and drug abuse, celebrates Bad Religion’s maturation into a well-oiled business, and wonders where he fits in with his contemporaries. But Graffin’s long-winded ruminations on punk humanism can be stilted: “The humanity in our lyrics found resonance with the embodiment of the enlightenment quest that seems to be in the DNA of all Europeans, but particularly those who call themselves punks,” for instance. And his prose comes alive only when describing the very excesses he deplores. (“Nearly every slam pit had devolved into a disjointed jumble of drunk or speeded-out former jocks randomly bumping into or tackling one another.”) This account of punk’s evolution mutes the sound and fury of the scene. Agent: Matthew Elblonk, DeFiore & Co. (Nov.)