Truth, Reality and the Punks of South Street

July 21, 2009 at 1:10 am (By Ennui)

Almost 20 years have passed since R.F. Laird (aka instapunk, man of controversy) published The Boomer Bible – a book best summarized by Glen Reynolds with characteristic brevity – “Ten thousand years from now, scholars will still be confused.”

But, heck, a lot of confusing books were published in the twentieth century, right? The difference is, or would appear to be, that Laird believes what he’s saying.

That is to say, the Boomer Bible is less an exercise in literary pyrotechnics (or literary marketing) than it is an attempt at a “total book,” a book self-consciously written (whether by the empirical R.F. Laird or by the punks of South Street) to diagnose the sickness of the twentieth century by penetrating the mystery of the whole.   And he got it right.  As he will tell you.  Personally.  With extreme prejudice.

Okay. So… (foot tapping) …. What’s the sickness of the twentieth century? 

That brings me to the occasion of this post. Laird has, for whatever reason [edit: here’s the reason – as a service to his web community], suddenly seen fit to post several parts of the back story of The Boomer Bible that may or may not shed light on the meaning of The Boomer Bible. Here’s one, touching on the distinction between truth and reality, that stands pretty nicely on its own.  Still, if you’re new to Laird’s punk mythos the first few paragraphs will seem obscure. But trust me, it’s worth a read.


  1. mileslascaux said,

    Fascinating stuff, to me, as a Philly guy who gets the references. It’s Pynchon paranoia for summer afternoons too hot for halfball. Truth? It’s out there.

  2. Ennui said,

    It would indeed be interesting to view Laird’s mythos through the eyes of a native Philadelphian. Some time back I ran across some of David Lynch’s observations about the Philadelphia of the 1970s (around the setting of the Boomer Bible), prompting me to wonder just what the hell was going on in Philly in those days.

    Regarding the Pynchon similarities, there are many – self reference, encyclopedic allusions, the attempt to get at very large themes and the underlying pattern in the warp and woof … but I think, and I’m guessing here, that Laird would see himself as a different species.

  3. amba12 said,

    Eek. Wow.

  4. R. F. Laird said,

    Thanks for your post.

    I do want to respond to the Pynchon comparisons. I don’t know if they’re flattering or critical because the truth is, I have never read Pynchon. I tried reading the Crying of Lot 49 and Gravity’s Rainbow, but he seemed to be doing something different from anything I had any interest in. So, without derogating him in any way, I can tell you authoritatively there’s no cross-pollination there. If that will settle anything for you.

    Thanks again.

  5. Callimachus said,

    Neither flattering nor otherwise. Just a thing that swam into my mind as I read it.

  6. Callimachus said,

    Besides, I can’t judge this stuff because part of me WANTS it to be true and get big so I can brag about being ON South Street in those years, at Zipperhead and the Ripley and Grendel’s Lair and the TLA after drinking Ortleib at Walt’s King of Crabs. When my luggage got ripped off in a London hotel in 1987 the only thing I really missed (and still do) was my ratty old black-and-white Jim’s Steaks T-shirt.

  7. R. F. Laird said,


    As an actual familiar of South Street, you might especially enjoy today’s post, which includes photographs from a decade ago of the place you remember, along with info about sites relevant to the punks. Hope you fing it helpful:

    btw, remember a place called “Harry’s Occult Store”? It was there, and it has obvious implications…

  8. Callimachus said,

    Harry’s Occult Store — yes! I had forgotten about that, but it was there. And that photo in your post, I believe that little plaza is gone now, too. If it’s the one I’m thinking it is, it was in front of (or behind, depending on your perspective) the hulk of the failed Rusty Scupper restaurant. There was a decent Mediterranean seafood restaurant between there and Head House Square wher eI used to take dates in the mid-80s. And a bookstore nearby where I found titles I’ve never found anywhere else.

  9. Callimachus said,

    The house where Larry Fine (of the Three Stooges) supposedly was born is a couple of blocks south of there.

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