The Gospel of Anarchy book review

College dropout David works a job at a phone survey call centre

Book review, Time In
Justin Taylor

Harper Collins

College dropout David works a job at a phone survey call centre: drab, lifeless, cubicle walls ‘flecked with coloured bits like tiny festive mistakes.’ But unlike other fictional office spaces, there’s no comedy here. It works purely on the metaphorical level: David talks to no one except the people who respond to the survey, and they can hardly tolerate him.

After finally reaching his upper limit of self-disgust – he almost makes an old woman cry during the course of a call – he tosses his PC into his bathtub, promptly putting an end to his internet addiction. Not long afterwards, he runs into Thomas, an old friend who’s out dumpster-diving for food, and who introduces him to the anarchist squat house Fishgut. The occupants exist at that parental-nightmare-nexus where hippies and punks coexist in a glory of hygiene flouting. David enters the Fishgut vortex, where he finds surprising beauty in the house’s home-made religion.

The narrative moves among a few of Fishgut’s freegans, and in each Taylor finds a singular humanity. It would be easy for a less empathic writer to simply attribute an alternative lifestyle to some commonplace loneliness, a condescending sense that the characters are just ‘lost.’ And though Taylor occasionally allows himself to romanticise the hippy/punk commune, the devoutness with which his characters take on their ‘gospel’ mirrors his own seriousness in his treatment of their lives.

As in his story collection, Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever, Taylor has a natural sense for what makes intelligent young people tick and occasionally drop out.

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