:: Buzzwords

3:AM Cult Hero: Kathy Acker

“I’m working at trying to find a kind of language
where I won’t be so easily modulated by expectation.”

Andrew Stevens on Kathy Acker and her 1984 masterpiece:

In fairness, the controversy that raged over Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School appears tame by the standards of more recent literary purges over depictions of sex and violence on the page, be it in Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho or A.M. Homes’ The End of Alice. In 1984 Blood and Guts in High School was banned in South Africa, hardly the apogee of an open and liberal society, but significantly by authorities in West Germany, who took the view that Acker’s breakthrough novel glorified incest. A ten-year-old protagonist who openly refers to her father as her lover, and leaves him because he can’t satisfy her, was never likely to secure an easy ride.

Acker’s approach to writing was profoundly non-literary, employing art-inspired techniques in her own distinct craft, borrowing heavily from both pre-modernist literature and modernist art, disturbing the narrative via a number of pictorial and poetical devices. Acker, the unashamed plagiarist, was content to cut and paste entire sections from others’ work, not least Jean Genet, who ends up becoming a central character later in the book. There is also the homage to Alexander Trocchi, whose Helen and Desire, a novel in the form of a diary of a young girl enslaved by an Arab trader, is played out here. The sly tragedy in hindsight is how the novel moves from Mexico to the United States, almost mirroring Acker’s own life in reverse, given how she died south of the border seeking an alternative medical cure for cancer.

Further: Who’s Afraid of Kathy Acker?, a documentary film by Barbara Caspar / R.U. Sirius interviews Acker / Ellen G. Friedman‘s conversation with Acker / Kathy Acker: It’s All Up to You, Girls / HiLobrow on Acker

First posted: Thursday, July 8th, 2010.

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