It's the summer of
1985, and I'm in Paris with a lover. We're getting along miserably and most of my days
are spent walking alone through the city streets. I will not remember the pattern of the wallpaper
our cheap hotel room near the
Sorbonne; I will only
remember the cockroaches which traverse its surface. The bed is so soft and lumpy as to
be unserviceable, but it is here that we sleep, each in our own crevice. Neither of us
brought enough money, and many evenings we make sandwiches of fresh bread, avocado and
cheese while we sit on the bed. We did bring books, however, and now he reads to me from
Kathy Acker's Blood and Guts in
One night Mr. Smith and Sally went out and Jane knew that her father and
that woman were going to fuck. Janey was also very pretty, but was kind of weird-looking
because one of her eyes was lopsided.
Janey tore up her father's bed and shoved boards
against the front door. When Mr. Smith returned home, he asked Janey why she was acting
Janey: You're going to leave me. (She
why she's saying this.)
Father (dumbfounded, but not denying
and I just slept together for the first time. How can I know anything?
Janey (in amazement. She didn't believe
had been saying was true. It was only out of petulance): You ARE going to leave me.
no. No. That can't be.
Father (also stunned): I never
to leave you. I was just fucking.
My lover who has not been my lover all summer pauses occasionally to show me
Acker's crude and somehow comical explicit line drawings which illustrate the story of
Janey and her love affair with her father, Johnny. The captions beneath the drawings are
printed in a diminuative and irregular Courier font:
my cunt red
cause she wanted to
than she felt pain.
The gentle cadence of his voice
fractured narrative broken yet again by my occasional laughter at this uncommon and
transgressive story which
shocks me even while its intelligence makes me laugh, because in Janey's untrained
emotions I can see my own. It is the first time that I have been read to as an adult and
I realize that I want to be read to perhaps more than I want to be held. My lover who
never again makes love to me reading to me from Kathy Acker's Blood and Guts in High
School is one of the few intimacies we share that summer.
Some years later, maybe 1989, I approached Kathy Acker after a poetry reading of some
kind that I think took place at the San Francisco Art Institute. I must have read
something, or showed her something, because she said she liked my writing. By then my
writing was focused on the body and on desire. I wished she was still teaching at San
Francisco State University so that I could take a class with her.
I picked up Acker's book of essays, Bodies of Work, only this past month. I
read her essay on Cronenberg's Crash. Its ending startled me: "I'd like to
personal about these two approaches toward picturing the future, for as I write this I
am sitting here, fighting off cancer."
Perhaps it is because I no longer
live in the San
Francisco Bay Area that I didn't know she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in
April 1996. That same week, I am reassured by the presence in World Art of an
article on photographer Anton Corbijn. But that is only because I was unaware that what
started out in the body of Kathy Acker as breast cancer had metastisized to her lungs,
pancreas, and liver.
Kathy Acker died on
November 30th, but you can still read her works. CTheory, a theory and culture journal whose Editorial
included Acker, has several pieces of hers. Trevor Dodge maintains a Kathy Acker website.
And a listing of Acker's books may be found at the Booksmith website or at Amazon.com.
Acker was an outlaw writer
who lived subculture; her postmodern and post-punk textual plays and plagarisms are
often compared to the works of William Burroughs and Jean Genet.
didn't have health insurance and a debt of some $30,000 remains for medical expenses. If
you'd like to help her friends make up that debt you can send a tax-deductible donation
to Giorno Poetry Systems, 222 Bowery, New York, N.Y. 10012. The check should bear a
notation for the "Kathy Acker Fund." Any surplus monies taken in will go
creation of a fund in Acker's name for the support of experimental writing.
1. Acker, Kathy, Blood and Guts in High
New York: Grove Press, 1978. p.7.
2. Ibid, pp. 19, 22.
3. Acker, Kathy, Bodies of Work:
Essays. Kathy Acker, 1997
(first published by Serpent's Tail,
London and New York). p.175.