Tom Bradley is one of those writers who sends me running to the dictionary. That is praise and damnation at the same time, but more of the former. Because like John Fowles, who also does this to me, I’m always impressed by the precision and rightness of the word in question. Bradley is one of our most unsung stylists, but it’s his Nihilistic imagination I most enjoy. There is nothing sacred enough to avoid his pen, nothing so precious to escape his hairy eyeball.
My Hands Were Clean, therefore, is a perfect example of the sort of thing you can expect from Bradley. Ostensibly, this is a memoir of his time spent entertaining the hoi polloi at a dude-ranch-cum-thermal-spa/Tantric sex park in the wilds of Utah as a kind of musician. The book takes the reader on a journey through the LSD-fuelled musings of a teenage musician (Bradley), through the lens of a much older Bradley’s experience, antagonism and erudition. These thoughts weave in and out of the story of the historical event of the Albert Hoffman taking magic mushrooms with Ernst Junger in Junger’s family castle. (Actually, the gamekeeper’s house.)
Sound crazy? It absolutely is. It’s like dropping acid in prose. As other readers have said of Bradley, it’s not for the faint of heart. But holy shit, what a trip.