SUMMARY OF AUTHOR, BOOK NOW
kathy acker is the vicious successor to william s. burroughs: twisted master of the cut-up technique, postmodern doyenne, a romantic and nihilistic and clear-eyed uber-feminist, punk dyke (kinda), giddy regurgitator of scifi/horror/erotica tropes, transgressive misanthrope, a sophisticated and shamelessly political word-terrorist disguised as a reductive, barbaric, apolitical anarchist. Empire of the Senseless is, in my opinion, her uneasy and imperfect masterwork. if you are no fan of hyper-aggressive language, atrocity, crudely violent and savagely sexual scenarios, and the complete breakdown of sentence structure and characterization... turn, turn away. but if the deconstruction of narrative and meaning is your thing, if crossing and warping boundaries and genres and 'normal' emotional states of mind are fun things for you, then this is your book, my unstable friend.
some postmodernism can be read and enjoyed almost as a quaint joke (i'm thinking of much of the po-mo of the 80s and 90s) while other examples of the style are seen as nearly unscalable mountains of challenging language, challenges most folks are disinterested in even attempting. acker's work falls squarely in the latter category. it is almost nonsensical to describe the narrative: two horrible but at times sympathetic, at times victimized protagonists murder and rape a bloody trail across a futuristic, william gibson-style europe, towards and away from each other, and beyond. this is a world where algerians finally rule france, a world where wars are fought with sound, a world where lovers long for each other's deaths as the most clear way to get in touch with their own yearning but empty cores. the book is not about the narrative itself: this is postmodernism after all. the book is about illustrating the Personal Made Political, it is about dismantling known systems and regenerating them, to form a structure that describes states of mind rather than actual states of being. it is the kind of novel that will detail violent subjugation and mutilation, and then will turn around and blithely include entire passages from Huckleberry Finn and Neuromancer, verbatim (and to much official controversy). it perverts both the signifier and the signified, the semio and the text(e). plus it has an almost-sweet and almost-hopeful ending. read at your own risk!SOLIPSISTIC PERSONAL NARRATIVE AHEAD
i went to college at uc san diego, a sunny and unremarkable place known at the time for its nice weather, easy-going atmosphere, marine biology programs, and free beer & live music during the weekly Friday Hump Day. when i heard that acker was going to be a visiting professor for a semester, i practically became unstable in my excitement - how was it possible that such a writer could suddenly be so accessible, in my placid and pleasant environment? i needed to be a part of that class! but i knew my chances were practically nil - i wouldn't even get on the waitlist, being only in my 3rd year. still, i showed up, and the class was jam-packed to bursting, as expected. acker did something unusual: she gave everyone a writing exercise on the spot, one where we detailed a recent dream, then gave us a half-hour to write it and turn it in. she said she would personally choose who would be in the class based on that writing sample. she told us that if chosen, we should also be prepared to read our tale aloud and be open to the responses of our peers.
so i did what i had to do: i lied. i quickly imagined the most fucked-up dream that i could think of: a sexy tale of me and my brother, sadist and masochist, lovers, serial killers in training, with a central scene in which my loving bro tied me up, covered me in glue, and then left me for dead... and thus opened my eyes to an exciting new world. needless to say, my dream-story was not a hit with the class after i read it to them a week later. they thought it was weird and disgusting; it was. but i could care less: it got me into the class! how could it not? i jerry-built it to her unspoken specifications, those that dominated her own writings: perverse sexuality, brutal violence, the destruction of various paradigms and the transforming of those paradigms into a new, more sinister and visceral kind of structure.
later, after kathy and i became more deeply acquainted, i admitted that i had made that first dream up, just to gain access to her class. and i didn't even have a brother! i remember her looking at me as if i had only now noticed that the sky was up and the earth was down. i forget exactly what she said, but it was something along the lines of No Shit, That Was Obvious - And Why Would I Care? that's when i truly understood what her writing was about, and it was not about reality nor even what we construed as our personal place in that reality. it is about what we then make of that reality! and how we can destroy and recreate it anew, over and over again - endeavors that are actually not in opposition, but should and do exist side-by-side.COMMEMORATION MEME
kathy acker, rest in peace. you were an awesome lady, a thrilling although brief companion, an amazing and challenging writer, and a profound influence on my world-view. you taught me so much!