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This article is taken from PN Review 31, Volume 9 Number 5, May - June 1983.

Priapus at Prayer Martin Jarrett-Kerr

The Theological Inside of George Barker

THE protagonist in George Barker's novel, The Dead Seagull, says of his wife Theresa (who like him had been born Roman Catholic), 'she knelt just within reach of the feet of the saints, and was silently begging them for their personal attention . . . She wept because I could not succeed in praying.' Even if the protagonist is Barker (which he isn't) it still would not be true. Most of Barker's poems are prayers. Even (or especially) the blasphemous ones. In 'Coming to London' Barker says 'I sat down outside the Brompton Oratory to count the devotees who entered, and, finding there were seventy women for ten men [I] informally seceded from the Roman Catholic faith.' Periodically he insists on the freedom of the poet from dogmatic adherence, since the poet perceives 'that every object enshrining a divine idea is therefore to be loved, and such love does not need the dogma of the Church: it only needs victims'. The little squib, 'Title of a novel written by God about the Church: The Necessity of Atheism', might seem to belong to the same category. In fact it means the opposite-a divine judgement on ecclesiastical idolatry. More abrasive is the remark in The Dead Seagull: 'The truly religious man will be seen kneeling in the masturbatory attitude of prayer. For he had intercepted the fiendish will of God with his hand in an immaculate contraception.' (The fiendish will of God is ...

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