Ideas can come together in mysterious, serendipitous ways. Earlier in 2017, Deep Purple released a new album called inFinite, of which there’ll be more to say when I get around to it, some day.

In advance of the album came a single, “Time for Bedlam.”

When we write the songs, we steep ourselves in the atmosphere of the song and try and figure out what it’s about. And this one sounded vicious. Especially the keyboard solo. It was bedlam.”

I thought to myself at the time: Hmm, bedlam; interesting choice of words, and from a group seldom noted for lyrical heft.

Weeks passed, and I concurred with my friend Jon’s choice of massive summer novels for shared reading, this being a long tradition of our literary partnership.

Alan Moore’s Time-Traveling Tribute to His Gritty Hometown, by Douglas Wolk (NYT)

Brilliant and sometimes maddening, “Jerusalem” is Alan Moore’s monumentally ambitious attempt to save his hometown, Northampton, England — not to rescue it from the slow economic catastrophe that’s been gnawing at it for centuries, but to save it “the way that you save ships in bottles,” by preserving its contours and details in art. The book is, itself, roughly the size of a schooner: a 1,266-page behemoth composed in several dozen shades of the deepest, richest purple prose, fusing social realism, high fantasy and sparkling literary showoffishness. And it’s a vehicle for nothing less than Moore’s personal cosmology of space, time and life after death.

The novel is nothing short of incredible, certainly the finest book ever written about New Albany, and I’m hooked even if it will quite literally occupy the entire summer. However, my point at present is this single sentence at the very end of book one, chapter one.

In 1868 Ern’s wife and mother for the first time in their lives agreed on something and allowed him to be placed in Bedlam.

Having slipped into insanity, the Londoner named Ernest was sent to Bedlam, and accordingly, bedlam as it comes to us today is “a scene of madness, chaos or great confusion.”


Bedlam is a scene of madness, chaos or great confusion. If you allow football fans onto the field after the big game, it will be pure bedlam.

The term bedlam comes from the name of a hospital in London, “Saint Mary of Bethlehem,” which was devoted to treating the mentally ill in the 1400’s. Over time, the pronunciation of “Bethlehem” morphed into bedlam and the term came to be applied to any situation where pandemonium prevails.

The Encyclopedia of Trivia adds:

Bethlehem Royal Hospital became a tourist attraction, where sightseers paying an entrance fee of twopence each, could amuse themselves at the patients’ antics. Often the patients were teased and provoked by the general public into a raving frenzy.

From the fourteenth century, Bethlehem had been referred to colloquially as “Bedlam.” The word “bedlam”, meaning uproar and confusion, is derived from the hospital’s nickname. Although the Bethlehem Royal Hospital became a modern psychiatric facility, historically it was representative of the worst excesses of asylums in the era of lunacy reform.

Bedlam for the beak-wetting set?

Why, that’s no hospital — it’s the Redevelopment Commission.