The definitive compendium of Acker’s sexed-up word-bombs.
If you believe Jeanette Winterson’s typically hyperbolic and snot-nosed introduction, Acker (1948–97) was one of the modern world’s most provocative and revolutionary writers. Acker herself may have believed that. But there’s little revolutionary in this collection of 23 pieces spanning 1968 to 1996, and that is by no means an insult. Acker sought to push boundaries—in her writing, life and performance art—and somehow ended up producing some truly fun and enjoyable writing. A representative item is one of the better stories here, “Rip-Off Red, Girl Detective”: The eponymous narrator has spiraled down through society’s lower depths, eventually becoming a stripper, “but even that bored me, so I decided, on my 26th birthday, to become the toughest detective alive.” Mind you, this pledge to herself doesn’t involve much more than incessantly screwing a guy named Peter, as well as some woman on a plane, and masturbating. Variations on the same theme—of a rampantly and unapologetically sexual woman—make up the body of the rest of the book. But it’s all in a day’s fun for a writer who deserves more than a few comparisons to Burroughs, although she’s a livelier and less apocalyptic version of said Beat prophet, and with fewer axes to grind. Acker also has a habit of sampling from other writers, Dickens and Rimbaud, for example (she even briefly seems to be quoting from William Gibson’s Neuromancer), a device probably meant to be more thought-provoking than it actually is.
A life between two covers: Acker, resolutely political but always entertaining, in spite of herself.