Cycle of Violence, By Grayson Perry

Atlas Press

By Mark Rappolt

First published in a limited edition by the Atlas Press in 1992, Cycle of Violence is, in the words of its author (writing the foreword to the current edition), ‘a striking encounter with my younger, angrier self’. In Cycle… , that past self invites us into a future world based on caring, sharing and the righteousness of green causes, led by gay presidents, peppered with 1980s nostalgia pubs (‘you can almost smell the cigarette smoke’) and looked after by policemen who are… ha, ha, ha… ‘thoroughly trained in sensitivity towards members of our community who are psychosexually disturbed’. Which is what our ‘hero’, a champion cyclist called Bradley (this a long time before the emergence of UK cycling hero Wiggins), is. Fusing a slightly clunky J.G. Ballard with a more raw and brutal Aubrey Beardsley, Perry’s intricately scratchy black-andwhite drawings take us through a slew of more-or-less kinky sexual murders as impotence (as a cyclist and a man) and Bradley’s attendant psychological problems overtake him, before guiding us through the roots of his trauma and, from there, with a certain naive optimism, onto our homicidal cyclist’s eventual salvation. While Perry rather forcefully suggests that his graphic novella might provide a simplistic insight into himself (Bradley is a man driven by mother issues, gender confusion and a passion for Japanese ceramics; and in case you remain unconvinced, Perry points out that when he went into therapy six years after creating Cycle… , he immediately presented his therapist with a copy) what makes it worth reading is that it stands apart from its creator as a reflection (albeit a warped one) of the shared psychology of its time. Unless, of course, your heart’s desire really is to get to know Perry as well as he apparently knows himself…

This article was first published in the January & February 2013 issue.