Book reviews / Non fiction

Book review: Punk Paradox

Punk Paradox is a memoir written by Greg Griffin, lead singer of the punk band Bad Religion. I think I have seen Bad Religion live, more than any other band as we tend to see them every time they are London. My partner and I were both influenced by an essay that Greg Graffin called A punk manifesto (you can find a copy here). I feel like Punk Paradox expands on some of the themes in that essay, which I really enjoyed.

I think the first thing which I found amusing in the memoir was the fact that Graffin was decidedly, not nerdy, but also much more normal than some of the people he hung around in LA. There were notable passages where he reflects on his peers not pressuring him to take drugs or drink alcohol, but he also would help them shoot up. And this was when he was quite young, still a teenager. I think this reflects some of the essay mentioned above, that punk is an attitude versus something you wear (blue hair and spikes) or do (take drugs and get into fights).

What I also appreciated about the memoir was the life long journey of learning. Graffin had to pause his PhD when the band signed to a major label. However, eventually he changed direction for his dissertation and ultimately finished (and now has the fun balance of teaching and then doing summer tours in Europe). I really identified with that attitude, the life long pursuit of knowledge and challenging how you think. Our knowledge of the world (collectively), will always be changing, updating to fit the latest evidence, and constantly reading and being challenged is a great way to be more present in the world.

What was enjoyable throughout the memoir, was how he wove in the ups and downs of the band (there is another excellent book about Bad Religion, that goes into this in quite a bit of nerdy detail as well), with how his philosophy of punk and life developed. Clearly lots of it was developed through growing up (he often mentions Graffin U, given his parents were both involved in university life as professors or as administrators), but also his response to the changing punk scene in LA, as well as trying to balance university and wanting to be a great punk band. It really put into perspective the kind of miraculous result, of the band persisting for how long it did. It was never guaranteed that they’d succeed and in retrospect it’s kind of amazing they did.

It’s also fun to see people you admire, geeking out over people they admire. That was adorable.

100% recommend, especially if you like punk.

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