LITERAL MADNESS: Three Novels by Kathy Acker


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A hard-cover debut for punk writer Acker (Blood and Guts in High School, Don Quixote) comprised of three short novels: a Burroughs-style fantasy featuring Italian director Pasolini trying to solve his own 1975 murder; a young woman's sexual affair in Haiti; and a rewriting of Key Largo from a violent woman's point of view. My Death, My Life by Pier Paolo Pasolini is Acker's latest novel (the other two are reprints) and it takes up where Don Quixote left off. Veering from the image of Pasolini wandering back-alley Rome looking for his murderer, Acker plunders Shakespeare, Bronte, and Robbe-Grillet, filling the cut-up forms with hot, pained rumination and postmodern philosophy--explicit clues to the text ("". . .the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition""). Lines about the loss of meaning are unifying mantras here. Acker makes it repetitively clear that her exploded novel is an act of intellectual violence--a blow against the denial of feeling, of the body. Kathy Goes to Haiti is classic and much more accessible Acker, a blunt, X-rated narrative about a vacationing New Yorker who slips into a passionate sexual affair with a rich Haitian sex maniac. Young, tough-minded ""Kathy"" cracks wide open when she falls in love with heir-to-a-rum-fortune Roger, revealing a psychic landscape of ""burns and scars."" Florida is, by contrast, a sliver of a novella, a punchy, stream-of-consciousness take on the Bogart-Bacall film Key Largo; here, gangster ""Johnny's"" life-battered girlfriend mentally prods the captives in the decaying old hotel. For experimental tastes only--these novels are violent, obscene, and tediously short on plot and other writerly amenities. But there's a haunting method to Acker's ""madness"": a rough, raw, erudite wail against the postmodern loss of meaning and emotion.

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 1987
Publisher: Grove