The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Kathy Acker Great Expectations (1983)


‘Acker proposes that her text is the other text.

‘The connection between reading and community is continually formed by writing that’s disrupting real-time events.

‘“Influence” is past-tense, hierarchical. But this is as space.

‘My sense of Acker’s view of present time1: being held to the absolute present (change) is pain — time as it is change is pain. Because “I’m scared.”

‘Acker’s project is always her autobiography as completely separated from its subject. All parts in her narratives, regardless of which character is speaking are in the same speaking voice: identical, seems to come from the same person. Thus ‘character’ is random, nonintentional plot — yet irretrievably formed — by violence (“art is elaborating violence”). This ‘is’ the author but only as if mechanistically recreating her autobiography continually, as if speaking to someone else while making up random events-the-future only as ‘spoken’ off-the-cuff. The impression is that ‘written’ (as if it were ‘speaking’ only) doesn’t exist there (in hers, though the narrative exists only as text). The text is thus secret as revelation of a life that is made-up (though the events are real/her life or real in the sense of being [in], rather than referring to these, events from other texts).

‘That is, ‘character’ and action for Acker is only imitation-of-oneself-as-if-she-is-speaking-unpracticed-monologue (an action), not in conversation (conversation is secret). The actions (events of the narrative) are connectives, go on as if spurts of whim which cause each other, cause new details thus not connected as crafted pre-formed (‘written’) plot. There are only new connectives arising. The dots in the paragraph of which the above sentence is part indicate that an original exists from which she supposedly quotes, part of which is apparently omitted; proposes her writing is ‘only’ appropriation (of other texts, of herself, of historical events), the text not distinguishable from ‘its’ original.

‘Referring to Cézanne and the Cubists, Acker makes her space in Great Expectations the same as theirs: “They found the means of making the forms of all objects similar. If everything was rendered in the same terms, it became possible to paint the interactions between them. These interactions became so much more interesting than that which was being portrayed that the concepts of portraiture and therefore of reality were undermined or transferred.” “A narrative is an emotional moving.” Something exists at all when it is part of a narrative.

‘This is what I call (in my writing) minute movements within even tiny events which are the reality that’s being undermined that’s ‘baseless’ because they’re only interactions (not entities). Acker was a Buddhist.

‘While in her oeuvre the most constant reference to action is to fucking or being fucked, fucking is evoked/takes place as social-political rather than physiological sensation (secret). Even that which is physiological is caused by the outside, done to one/ though one acts in the outside/ one does not ‘express’ (be in or write) direct sensation: “After the jeeps and the lorries left, wounded on the forehead now by the rising sun, I placed my sackcloth jacket over my face.”

‘Sensation is outside as a means of making the compressed space of psychological, physiological and landscape the same. A passage beginning “Now we’re fucking”: is entirely speaking: what she wants, speaking of herself as an image of a blonde tiger all over him, speaking what’s happening and isn’t happening, as if radio sex. A disembodied voice is sensation. The reader, as writer also, is not able to see or feel because the text has substituted for feeling. The text/speaking is between it. Text has to be the conditions only.

‘Acker’s subject is subsumed in her (own) social construction in a benign, even beautiful universe. She constructs the site/sight/space (characters) of herself being enslaved because this is occurring outside in the social realm everywhere, is realistic. The surface of the writing-as-the-enslavement is not palatable (the enslavement-as-the-writing is intended not to be palatable), one can not bear to be in it (the writing destroys itself, can’t be dwelled in, changes the reader).

‘It is free by its nonintentional mode.

‘Plagiarism is: not allusion. It is ‘the same.’ The author as plagiarist: complete transformation as one’s own appearance is invasion, destruction — that’s continual realignment of oneself as same one. Autobiography as fiction: the same one is consuming (as being) itself.

‘If the transformation of one is continual it is the destruction of that one in only its appearance again.

‘In that sloth is non-transformative, it is a relation to terror still without being changed by it.’ — Leslie Scalapino



Kathy Acker Info Page
‘Kathy Acker: Where does she get off?’
Kathy Acker answers survey questions
Kathy Acker interviews The Spice Girls
Guide to the Kathy Acker Papers
Kathy Acker @ Ubuweb
Kathy Acker sound records @ PennSound
‘Looking back at Kathy Acker’
‘Death (and Life) of the Author’
‘Poète Maudit’, by Chris Kraus
‘The gift of disease’, by Kathy Acker
Video: Excerpt of Reading by Kathy Acker (1977)




Kathy Acker poetry reading SF 1991

Kathy Acker interviews William S. Burroughs – part 1/3

The MEKONS & Kathy Acker ~ Live

Kathy Acker Documentary by Alan Benson New York 1984


from The Review of Contemporary Fiction


Ellen G. Friedman: You say Burroughs was an influence on you.

Kathy Acker: Oh, he was my first major influence.

EGF: Can you say what in Burroughs you admire or took?

KA: I came out of a poetry world. My education was Black Mountain school—Charles Olson, Jerry Rothenberg, and David Antin were my teachers. But I didn’t want to write poetry. I wanted to write prose and there weren’t many prose writers around who were using the ways of working of poets I was influenced by. Their concerns certainly weren’t narrative in any way. Any prose writer, even if he doesn’t use narrative the way narrative is traditionally used, is concerned with narrative. I mean the reader has to go from A to Z and it’s going to take a long time and that’s narrative. There’s no way to get around it; that’s the form.

EGF: So Burroughs seemed a natural?

KA: There were Burroughs and Kerouac really. I love to read Kerouac, but Burroughs is the more intellectual. He was considering how language is used and abused within a political context. That’s what interested me. The stuff about his relation to women and all that was really secondary for me to the main work, books like The Third Mind. I was also looking for a way to integrate both sides of my life. I was connected to the St. Mark’s poetry people at the time. On the one hand, there were the poetry people, who were basically upper-middle-class, and on the other, there was the 42nd Street crowd. I wanted to join the two parts of my life, though they seemed very un-joinable. As if I were split. Of course, the links were political.

EGF: There were political links between the two?

KA: A political context was the only way to talk about the link between them. Politics was the cause of the divergence. It was a question of class and also of sexism. The poetry world at that time denied any of this. Sexism wasn’t an issue, class, forget it. Money—we’re all starving hippies—ha, ha. That I worked in a sex show for money was not acceptable at all, despite the free love rhetoric. Warhol was interested in this convergence as well. I knew Warhol people who worked on 42nd Street, and his was the only group that did any crossover. He was interested in sex hype, transsexuals, strippers, and so forth.

EGF: What attracted you to 42nd Street? Was it the political aspect you’ve been talking about?

KA: Oh, no. I just needed money. I had gotten out of university and I had nowhere to go.

EGF: Where did you study?

KA: At Brandeis, at UCSD, and a little bit at CCNY and NYU.

EGF: We were talking about your early work.

KA: The first work I really showed anyone is The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula by the Black Tarantula.

EGF: What about the schizophrenia?

KA: The thing about schizophrenia: I used a lot of autobiographical material in Black Tarantula. I put autobiographical material next to material that couldn’t be autobiographical. The major theme was identity, the theme I used from Tarantula through Toulouse The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec by Henri Toulouse Lautrec, the end of the trilogy. After that, I lost interest in the problem of identity. The problem had for me in a sense been solved by that trilogy. After that I became interested in plagiarism, working with other texts.

EGF: Here’s a quote from Don Quixote having to do with semiotics: “What it really did was give me a language with which I could speak about my work. Before that I had no way of discussing what I did, of course I did it, and my friends who were doing similar work—we had no way of talking to each other” (54). Was there an element of truth in that statement?

KA: I felt very isolated as part of the art world; I could never talk about my work until the punk movement came along and then I don’t know for what reason or what magic thing happened, but suddenly everyone started working together along the same lines. But we had no way of explaining what we were doing to each other. We were fascinated with Pasolini’s and Bataille’s work, but there was no way of saying why or how. So Sylvdre Lotringer came to New York. His main teachers were Felix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze and somewhat Foucault. That’s why I didn’t want to use the word “semiotics” because it’s slightly inaccurate. He was looking in New York for the equivalent of that scene, which wasn’t quite Derrida’s scene. What he picked on was the art world, especially our group, which was a kind of punk offshoot.

EGF: Who was in your group?

KA: Well, there were my friends Betsy Sussler who now does Bomb, Michael McClark, Robin Winters, Seth Tillett. People who started the Mud Club. Bands were forming, such as X, Mars, and the Erasers. Bands with ties to Richard Held, Lydia Lunch. Very much the Contortions. It was that amalgam of people he found. Sylvere started hanging out at our parties. I knew nothing about Foucault and Baudrillard. He’s the one that introduced me to them, introduced everyone to them. But it wasn’t from an academic point of view, and it certainly wasn’t from a Lacanian point of view or even from Derrida. It was much more political. When he did the Italian version of Semiotext(e), there were very close ties with the Autonomia, and it was very political. When I went over to France, friends of mine were working on the Change. There were connections with Bifo and Radio Alice. For the first time we had a way of talking about what we were doing. It was mainly, for me, about decentralization, and in Don Quixote I worked with theories of decentralization.

EGF: Why did you leave the United States’

KA: Not enough money.

EGF: You do better in London?

KA: It’s better for a writer over there, for me. There I’m an accepted writer. Here it was very difficult; I was sort of an adjunct to the art world. I really wanted to get out of New York. I’m forty now. I was thirty-seven when I got out of New York. I was feeling that my life was never going to change. To survive in New York is to be a little like those hamsters on a wheel, the wheel turns faster and faster. I felt that either I had to get very famous, just as a calling card for survival—I had to write movie scripts, I had to do whatever writers do here, write for popular magazines—or else become like a lot of poets I know who are very bitter about their poverty. And I don’t want either alternative. What I like is the middle ground. And I didn’t see it possible to maintain that middle ground.

EGF: And it is possible in London?

KA: Yes, very much. It’s a very literary society and you don’t want for money, so you can work.

EGF: Do you have a community of writers whose style of writing is closer to yours than here in America?

KA: No, I’m probably closer to people here. I have very good friends in London, but the people I’m closest to are people here.

EGF: Are there any contemporary writers whose work you’re following?

KA: Oh, I have friends who are wonderful writers, Lynne Tillman and Catherine Texier—very much I’m following their careers. I was just sent a novel by Sarah Schulman called After Dolores, which is just lovely. But what would be the feminist writers in England don’t interest me that much.

EGF: Too ideological?

KA: No, it’s not too ideological; I don’t mind that. It’s just social realists. It’s too much, “I used to be in a bad nuclear marriage and now I’m a happy lesbian.” It’s diary stuff and the diary doesn’t go anywhere, and there’s not enough work with language.

EGF: I understand.

KA: I’m more interested in the European novel now. Pierre Guyotat. Duras’s work interests me. Some of Violet Leduc, early Monique Wittig. Some of de Beauvoir’s writing, Nathalie Sarraute. There is Elsa Morante’s writing. Luisa Valenzuela, I like her work. Laure, an amazing woman, a French woman from the upper classes who lived with Georges Bataille. Wonderful writer.

EGF: Who’s your ideal reader? Do you like academic readers?

KA: I don’t imagine an ideal reader. I write for myself and maybe my friends. Although as I give readings more and more, I try and see whether the audience is bored. So in that way I’m aware of an audience. There has to be that element of entertainment, really, or there’s limited accessibility. So I do care about my readers in that way. Academics-I feel a confusion about academia.

EGF: You’ve come out of the academy?

KA: I absolutely hate it. I’ve seen too many English departments destroy people’s delight in reading. Once something becomes academic it’s taken on this level—take the case of semiotics and postmodernism. When I was first introduced to the work of Foucault and Deleuze, it was very political; it was about what was happening to the economy and about changing the political system. By the time it was taken up by the American academy, the politics had gone to hell. It became an exercise for some professors to make their careers. You know, it’s just more of the same: the culture is there to uphold the post capitalist society, and the idea that art has nothing to do with politics is a wonderful construction in order to mask the deep political significance that art has—to uphold the empire in terms of its representation as well as its actual structure.

EGF: What do you mean “in terms of its representation”?

KA: In England, for instance, they don’t have an empire anymore though they refuse to recognize that fact. What they have is Milton and Shakespeare. Their attitude toward Milton and Shakespeare is something absolutely incredible. A person’s speech denotes his class. Those who can speak Milton and Shakespeare are in the top class. It goes much deeper than this, obviously. The literary world should be a populist world, it should be the world in which any class can discuss itself. But in England, the literary world is so tightly bound to the Oxford-Cambridge system. Nobody but nobody gets into that world who hasn’t come from Oxbridge. It assures that its representation of itself always comes from its upper class. And those classes which are not Oxbridge have no representation of themselves except in fashion and rock and roll. So you really have two Englands: one represented by fashion and rock and roll, and one is the literary representation.

EGF: That’s very true for England, but not so much for the U.S.

KA: No, but I still think there’s an element of it here.

EGF: Fostered by the academy?

KA: Yes.



Kathy Acker Great Expectations
Grove Press

Most conceptual writers were poets, but apart from the self-published volume Politics, Acker stuck to prose. She started to explore various techniques – combining porn with passages stolen from Dickens and Proust, having her characters change gender and identity, having real characters drift in an out of the action and interspersing the text with diary entries and drawings. Small presses started to pick up on her work and the burgeoning punk scene required literary expression. Acker developed a reputation, won a Pushcart Prize for one of her short stories and decided to see what would happen if she appropriated not just a few passages from other writers but a whole work of literature. Great Expectations was the result – Acker’s reimagining of the Dickens classic as something else entirely. Porn, whores, gender-shifting narrators: Charles would have spun in his grave, which was probably the point. While no one who read it claimed to understand it, Great Expectations perfectly captured the boundary-breaking spirit of the New York late 70s-early 80s New Wave scene.’ — Lit Reactor



I Recall My Childhood

My father’s name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit that Pip. So I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.

I give Pirrip as my father’s family name on the authority of his tombstone and my sister—Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith.

On Christmas Eve 1978 my mother committed suicide and in September of 1979 my grandmother (on my mother’s side) died. Ten days ago, it is now almost Christmas 1979, Terence told my fortune with the Tarot cards. This was not so much a fortune—whatever that means—but a fairly, it seems to me, precise psychic map of the present, therefore: the future.

I asked the cards about future boyfriends. This question involved the following thoughts: Would the guy who fucked me so well in France be in love with me? Will I have a new boyfriend? As Terence told me, I cut the cards into four piles: earth water fire air. We found my significator, April 18th, in the water or emotion fantasy pile. The cards were pointing to my question. We opened up this pile. The first image was a fat purring humper cat surrounded by the Empress and the Queen of Pentacles. This cluster, travelling through a series of other clusters that, like mirrors, kept defining or explained the first cluster more clearly, for there is nowhere to go there is no lineality of time time is an almost recurring conical, led to the final reversed (not consciously known by me) image: during Christmas the whole world is rejecting a male and a female kid who are the genetic existing scum. To the right of this card is the Star. To the left is the card of craftsmanship which due to hard work succeeds.

Terence told me that despite my present good chance and my basic stability and contentedness with myself (the fat purring human cat), or alongside these images, I have the image or obsession of being cast out and scum. This powerful image depends on the image of the Empress or the image I have of my mother. When I was very young, even before I was born, my mother hated me because my father left her (because she got pregnant?) and because my mother wanted to remain her mother’s child rather than be my mother. My image of my mother is the source of my creativity—I prefer the word consciousness. My image of my hateful mother is blocking consciousness. To obtain a different picture of my mother, I have to forgive my mother for rejecting me and committing suicide (the picture of love, found in one of the clusters, is forgiveness transforming need (the savage red untamed lion) into desire (the two lovers hold the cup of fantasy with the caduceus of health).

Due to this hatred, the cards continued, I separate women myself into virgin meditation (The Hierophant) or the scantiest lust, rather than believing I can be fertile.

I have no idea how to begin to forgive someone much less my mother. I have no idea where to begin repression’s impossible because it’s stupid and I’m a materialist.

I just had the following dream: In a large New England-ish house l am standing in a very big room on the second floor in the front of the mansion. This room is totally fascinating, but as soon as I leave it, I can’t go back because it disappears. Every room in this house differs from every other room.

The day after my mother committed suicide I started to experience a frame. Within this frame time was totally circular because I was being returned to my childhood traumas totally terrifying because now these traumas are totally real: there is no buffer of memory.

Pure time is not time but a hole. Inside this hole everything that happens not comes back again because it never went away. There is no time; there is. Beyond the buffers of forgetting (memory is a tool of forgetting) which are our buffer to reality: there is. As the dream: there is and there is not. Call this TERROR call this TOTAL HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY. The PIG I see on the edge of the grave is the PIG me neither death nor social comment kills. This TERROR is divine because it is real and may I sink into IT like I sink into the arms of any man who shows me affection.

How can I start talking to you about my mother? I’m a mass of memories feelings anxieties. Fuck psychology. My mother was a drunk. Oh I’m so embarrassed to admit my mother was drunk. She didn’t drink four bottles of Schmirnoff’s a day. She’d down one glass of Scotch fall down on her hands and knees and crawl dog-style across the floor to the nearest available man place her head on his left thigh. Then she’d try to crawl up the man. Didn’t give a damn if her husband who drank four bottles of Jack Daniels a day when she wasn’t watching him saw her.

I grew up in this typical American family life.

My mother often told me, though not directly cause when she wasn’t drunk she pretended sex and booze are non-existent, the only cause in this world is money. You shouldn’t care if an action is right or wrong: you should totally care if you’re going to profit monetarily from it. Grow up, kid.

The helmeted bow-legged stiff-muscled soldiers trample on just-born babies swaddled in scarlet violet shawls, babies roll out of the arms of women crouched under POP’s iron machine guns, a cabby shoves his fist into a goat’s face, near the lake a section of the other army cross the tracks, other soldiers in this same army leap in front of the trucks, the POP retreat up the river, a white-walled tire in front of three thorn bushes props up a male’s head, the soldiers bare their chests in the shade of the mud barricades, the females lullabye kids in their tits, the sweat from the fires perfumes reinforces this stirring rocking makes their rags their skins their meat pregnant: salad oil clove henna butter indigo sulfur, at the base of this river under a shelf loaded down by burnt-out cedars barley wheat beehives graves refreshment stands garbage bags fig trees matches human-brain-splattered low-walls small-fires’-smoke-dilated orchards explode: flowers pollen grain-ears tree roots paper milk-stained cloths blood bark feathers, rising. The soldiers wake up stand up again tuck in their canvas shirttails suck in cheeks stained by tears dried by the steam from hot train rails rub their sex against the tires, the trucks go down into a dry ford mow down a few rose-bushes, the sap mixes with disemboweled teenagers’ blood on their knives’ metal, the soldiers’ nailed boots cut down uproot nursery plants, a section of RIMA (the other army) climb onto their trucks’ runningboards throw themselves on their females pull out violet rags bloody Tampaxes which afterwards the females stick back in their cunts: the soldier’s chest as he’s raping the female crushes the baby stuck in her tits

I want: every part changes (the meaning of) every other part so there’s no absolute/heroic/dictatorial/S&M; meaning/part the soldier’s onyxdusted fingers touch her face orgasm makes him shoot saliva over the baby’s buttery skull his formerly-erect now-softening sex rests on the shawl becomes its violet scarlet color, the trucks swallow up the RIMA soldiers, rainy winds shove the tarpulins against their necks, they adjust their clothes, the shadows grow, their eyes gleam more and more their fingers brush their belt buckles, the wethaired-from-sweating-during-capture-at-the-edge-of-the-coals goats crouch like the rags sticking out of the cunts, a tongueless canvas-covered teenager pisses into the quart of blue enamel he’s holding in his half-mutilated hand, the truck driver returns kisses the blue cross tattooed on his forehead, the teenager brings down his palm wrist where alcohol-filled veins are sticking out. These caterpillars of trucks grind down the stones the winds hurled over the train tracks, the soldiers sleep their sex rolling over their hips drips they are cattle, their truck-driver spits black a wasp sting swells up the skin under his left eye black grapes load down his pocket, an old man’s white hair under-the-white-hair red burned face jumps up above the sheet metal, the driver’s black saliva dries on his chin the driver’s studded heel crushes as he pulls hair out the back of this head on to the sheet metal, some stones blow up.

My mother is the most beautiful woman in the world. She has black hair, green eyes which turn gray or brown according to her mood or the drugs she’s on at the moment, the pallor of this pink emphasizes the fullness of her lips, skin so soft the color of her cheeks is absolutely peach no abrasions no redness no white tightness. This in no way describes the delicacy of the face’s bone structure. Her body is equally exquisite, but on the plump or sagging sides because she doesn’t do any exercise and wears girdles. She’s five feet six inches tall. She usually weighs 100 pounds even though she’s always taking diet pills. Her breasts look larger and fuller than they are because they sag downwards. The nipples in them are large pale pink. In the skin around the nipples and in the tops of her legs you can easily see the varicose veins breaking through. The breast stomach and upper thigh skin is very pale white. There’s lots of curly hair around her cunt.

She has a small waist hands and ankles. The main weight, the thrust, the fullness of those breasts is deceptive, is the thighs: large pockmarked flesh indicates a heavy ass extra flesh at the sides of the thighs. The flesh directly above the cunt seems paler than it has to be. So pale, it’s fragile, at the edge of ugliness: the whole: the sagging but not too large breasts, the tiny waist, the huge ass are sexier MORE ABOUT PASSION than a more-tightly-muscled and fashionable body.

My mother is the person I love most. She’s my sister. She plays with me. There’s no one else in my world except for some kind of weird father who only partly exists part out of the shadow, and an unimportant torment I call my sister. I’m watching my mother put on her tight tawny-orange sweater. She always wears a partially lacey white bra that seems slightly dirty. As she’s struggling to get into a large white panty girdle she says she doesn’t like girdles. She’s standing in front of her mirror and mirrored dresser. Mirrors cover every inch of all the furniture in the room except for the two double beds, my father’s chair, and the TV, but they don’t look sensuous. Now my mother’s slipping into a tight brown wool straight skirt. She always wears tight sweaters and tight straight skirts. tier clothes are old and very glamorous. She hitches her skirt up a little and rolls on see-through stockings.

She tells me to put on my coat and white mittens because we’re going outside.

Today is Christmas.

Huge clean piles of snow cover the streets make the streets magical. Once we get to the park below the 8th Street Bridge I say to myself, “No foot has ever marked this snow before.” My foot steps on each unmarked bit of snow. The piles are so high I can barely walk through them. I fall down laughing. My mother falls down laughing with me. My clothes especially the pants around my boots are sopping wet. I stay in this magic snow with the beautiful yellow sun beating down on me as long as I can until a voice in my head (me) or my mother says, “Now you know what this experience is. You have to leave.”

My mother wants to get a strawberry soda. Today my mother’s being very nice to me and I love her simply and dearly when she’s being very nice to me. We’re both sitting on the round red vinyl turn-able seats around the edge of the white counter. My mother’s eating a strawberry soda with strawberry icecream. I see her smiling. A fat middle-aged man thinks we’re sisters. My mother is very young and beautiful.

At camp: males string tents up along a trench filled with muck: slush from meat refuse vomit sparkle under arching colorless weeds, the soldiers by beating them drive back the women who’re trying to stick their kids in the shelter of the tents, they strike at kick punch the soldiers’ kidneys while the soldiers bend over the unfolded tent canvas. Two males tie the animals to the rears of the tents, a shit-filled-assed teenager squatting over the salt-eroded weeds pants dust covers his face his head rolls vacantly around his shoulder his purple eye scrutinizes the montage of tents, a brown curlyhaired soldier whose cheeks cause they’re crammed full of black meat’re actually touching his pockmarked earlobes crouches down next to a little girl he touches her nape his hand crawls under the rags around her throat feels her tits her armpits: the little girl closes her eyes her fingers touch the soldier’s grapejuice-smeared wrist, from the shit heaps a wind-gust lifts up the bits of film and sex mag pages the soldiers tore up while they were shitting clenched the shit burns the muscles twisted by rape. Some soldiers leaving the fire wander around the tents untie the tent thongs they crawl on the sand, the linen tent flaps brush their scabies-riddled thighs, the males the females all phosphorescent nerves huddle around the candles, no longer wanting to hear anything the teenagers chew wheat they found in the bags, the kids pick threads out of their teeth put their rags on again stick the sackcloth back over their mothers’ tits lick the half-chewed flour left on their lips

My mother thinks my father is a nobody. She is despising him and lashing out at him right now she is saying while she is sitting on her white quiltcovered bed “Why don’t you ever go out at night, Bud? All you do is sleep.”

‘’Let me watch the football game, Claire.’’ It’s Sunday.

‘’Why don’t you ever take Mommy out, Daddy? She never has any fun.” Actually I believe my mother’s a bitch.

“You can’t sleep all the time, Bud. It isn’t good for you.”

“This is my one day off, Claire. I want to watch the football game. Six days a week I work my ass off to buy you and the kids food, to keep a roof over your head. I give you everything you want.”

“Daddy, you’re stupid.” “Daddy, you don’t even know who Dostoyevsky is.” “What’s the matter with you, Daddy?”

My father makes my flesh slime.

Daddy’s drunk and he’s still whining, but now he’s whining nastily. He’s telling my mother that he does all the work he goes to work at six in the morning and comes back after six at night (which we all know is a joke cause his job’s only a sinecure: my mother’s father gave him his first break, a year ago when the business was sold, part of the deal was my father’d be kept on as ‘manager’ under the new owners at $50,000 a year. (We all know he goes to work cause there are drinks and he doesn’t hear my mother’s nagging.) He’s telling my mother he gave her her first fur coat. My father is never aggressive. My father never beats my mother up.

The father grabs a candle, the curly brownhaired soldier his red mouth rolling around the black meat bakes out his knife: his hand quickly juts the red rags over his sex his pincher his grabber the curly brownhaired soldier jerks the sleepy young girl’s thighs to him, she slides over the sand till she stops at the tent opening, one soldier’s mutilated forehead cause he was raping over an eagle’s eggs the eagle scalped him another soldier’s diseased skinpores these two soldiers gag the father, the father throws a burning candle into their hairs, the curly brownhaired soldier takes the young girl into his arms, she sleeps she purrs her open palm on her forehead to his shudder trot, the clouded moon turns his naked arm green, his panting a gurgling that indicates rape sweat dripping off his bare strong chest wakes the young girl up, I walked into my parents’ bedroom opened their bathroom door don’t know why I did it, my father was standing naked over the toilet, I’ve never seen him naked I’m shocked, he slams the door in my face, I’m curious I see my mother naked all the time, she closely watches inside his open cause gasping mouth the black meat still stuck to his teeth the black meat still in a ball, the curly brownhaired lifts her on to her feet lay her down on the dog-kennels’ metal grating hugs her kisses her lips the ear hollows where the bloodstained wax causes whispers his hand unbuttons his sackcloth pulls out his member, the young girl sucks out of the curly brownhaired’s red’s cheeks the black meat eyes closed hands spread over the metal grating, excited by this cheek-to-stomach muscle motion bare-headed straw-dust flying around his legs injects the devil over her scorches, the dogs waking up at the metal gratings leap out of the kennels their chains gleam treat me like a dog drag in the shit, the curly brownhaired nibbles the young girl’s gums his teeth pull at the meat fibers her tongue pushes into the cracks between her teeth, the dogs howl their chains jingle against the tar of the road their paws crush down the hardened shits, the curly brownhaired’s knees imprison the young girl’s thighs.

My father’s lying in the hospital cause he’s on his third heart attack. My mother’s mother at the door of my father’s room so I know my father is overhearing her is saying to my mother, “You have to say he’s been a good husband to you, Claire. He never left you and he gave you everything you wanted.”


‘’You don’t love him.’’


I know my grandmother hates my father.

I don’t side with my mother rather than my father like my sister does. I don’t perceive my father. My mother is adoration hatred play. My mother is the world. My mother is my baby. My mother is exactly who she wants to be.

The whole world and consciousness revolves around my mother.

I don’t have any idea what my mother’s like. So no matter how my mother acts, she’s a monster. Everything is a monster. I hate it. I want to run away. I want to escape the Jolly Green Giant. Any other country is beautiful as long as I don’t know about it. This is the dream I have: I’m running away from men who are trying to damage me permanently. I love mommy. I know she’s on Dex and when she’s not on Dex she’s on Librium to counteract the Dex jitters so she acts more extreme than usual. A second orgasm cools her shoulders, the young girl keeps her hands joined over the curly brownhaired’s ass, the wire grating gives way, the curly brownhaired slides the young girl under him his pants are still around his knees his fingernails claw the soil his breath sucks in the young girl’s cheek blows straw dust around, the mute young girl’s stomach muscles weld to the curly-headed’s abdominal muscles, the passing wind immediately modulates the least organic noise that’s why one text must subvert (the meaning of) another text until there’s only background music like reggae on that ground: the inextricability of relation-textures the organic (not meaning) recovered, stupid ugly horrible a mess pinhead abominable vomit eyes-pop-out-always-presenting-disgust-always-presenting-what-people-flee-always-wanting-to-be-lonely infect my mother my mother, blind fingernails spit the eyes wandering from the curly-headed, the curly-headed’s hidden balls pour open cool down on the young girl’s thigh. Under the palmtrees the RIMAS seize and drag a fainted woman under a tent, a flushing-forehead blond soldier burning coals glaze his eyes his piss stops up his sperm grasps this woman in his arms, their hands their lips touch lick the woman’s clenched face while the blond soldier’s greasy winestained arm supports her body, the young girl recovered.

New York City is very peaceful and quiet, and the pale gray mists are slowly rising, to show me the world, I who have been so passive and little here, and all beyond is so unknown and great that now I am crying. My fingers touch the concrete beneath my feet and I say “Goodbye, Oh my, dear, Dear friend.”

We don’t ever have to be ashamed of feelings of tears, for feelings are the rain upon the earth’s blinding dust: our own hard egotistic hearts. I feel better after I cry: more aware of who I am, more open. I need friends very much.

Thus ends the first segment of my life. I am a person of great expectations.




p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. My mom really liked Johnny Mathis. His records were amongst the “muzak” in the house where I grew up alongside Andy Williams, Perry Como, Shelly Berman, Don Ho, Nat King Cole, Nichols & May, … ** Bill, Hi. Yeah, I was, of course, like a pig in clover re: the windfall of emos this month. I think ARTE streams. I always watch it on TV, the old fashioned way. France is very protective of its IRL businesses, movie theaters and DVD/Blu Ray makers in this case, and I think that’s why the streaming situation is so tight. Even Netflix here is like a cyber small town. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. I know, god love him. I’m not hugely surprised by the big fee at the V&A. There must be other also cool but more doable options? ** Misanthrope, Slaves can be smart and inadvertently saintlike even. Congrats on finding Gus, although I guess he found you. That’ll teach him. You about ready to depart? ** Steve Erickson, As I mentioned to Bill, yes, that’s the deal here. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass, but, at the same time, I think it’s loveable of France too. I always found Frankie Goes to Hollywood to be kind of a slog other than their obvious song candidates. ** Right. Today I angle the blog’s spotlight onto my favorite of Kathy Acker’s novels. Go into the light? See you tomorrow.


  1. Shame Christmass

    October 1, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    Frankie Goes to Hollywood did the best cover of ‘Born to Run’ ever and I think Springsteen stinks 😷


    Thanks for this Acker post – even if it’s just for the Spice Girls interview!

    Did you read the Chris Kraus book? It was good, but felt like when Acker stopped writing letters, then Kraus had no framework to couch Acker’s interior with.

    BTW – you read this ‘Mr Benton’ book. Mr Indiana keeps talking about it in ‘Three Month Fever’ and it sounds amazing, but out of print and secondhand copies are selling for a mint.

    Might need to track down a PDF. I put out a request onTwitter so hopefully a copy turns up.

  2. Springsteen definitely stinks. He was created by John Hammond who longed for another straight-boy-musician-impossible-love-object after Dylan took off on his own. Springsteen is to Dylan as Tony Orlando is to Frank Sinatra.

    The idea of Kathy Acker has always interested me more than the result. I’ve got to give her another go.

  3. It’s been ages since my first encounter with Great Expectations. Can’t remember what I made of it then, but I should try to find some time for it soon.

    Just finished Season 4 (the final!) of Nick Antosca’s Channel Zero. There are interesting bits, but I think this is really the weakest of the series. (I recommend Season 2 No-end House, esp. for the season.) I see Antosca has some film projects in the works, but I haven’t been able to catch any.


  4. I’m a confirmed KA fan. Have never read Great Expectations though, so this is a helpful day indeed. Think I was put off by my not having read the Dickens, but I see now that is completely irrelevant haha.

  5. Holy shit, I love Kathy Acker. I got into her first with her essay ‘Language of the Body’ and went from there. ‘Great Expectations’ was the first book of hers I read. I just saw that doc from 84. So cool. She talked about after the 2nd draft putting sections in her book so I immediately added sections to mine.

    BTW sorry for the emails. I don’t mean it as a nudge more as an update on the previous one. I love making these changes but at a certain point I’ll have to stop myself.

    I sent it out to a couple places so we’ll see if it lands. Now with this section thing though who knows.

    This week has been an ass kicker. School’s grinding. I should be studying for a french exam right now, but alas.

    How’s your week going? Did ‘Crowd’ already happen? How’d it go?

    Hey I found a can of mushroom bisque. It was pretty good. I added some potatoes to it and it wasn’t so bad. I probably will never eat it again because right now my stomach feels like it got fucked. But otherwise it tasted good.

    Have you listened to the Bon Iver album? Or have any interest? I’m listening to it, but I can’t make up my mind on it. I like reading about it more than actually listen to it. But I also haven’t given it a thoughtful listen, so. yeah. I’m also listening to the new E-Saggila record. I recommend: https://northernelectronics.bandcamp.com/album/my-world-my-way

    Good week to you.

  6. I’ve been looking up music I’ve heard about but never actually listened to on YouTube. You might’ve seen my FB post over the weekend about checking out Deaf School’s 1976 Peel session. I’m now listening to Boards of Canada’s debut ep HI SCORES for the first time.

    I interviewed Bertrand Bonello today. It went fine, but I was disappointed that I only had 15 minutes to talk to him. But that means it’s short enough that I’ve been able to transcribe the whole interview. For Americans who are interested in ZOMBI CHILD, it will open here Jan. 24th, 2020.

    I think there’s something wrong with my new glasses, or at least I can’t wear them long enough to adjust to them because I’m barely able to see through them. I talked to the owner of the store where I bought them and he suggested there might be a problem with the prescription for progressive lenses. I’m taking them to the store to get the glasses examined, and if I need them exchanged and a new pair made, I can still have it done for free.

    I was wondering about Chris Kraus’ Acker bio too, because Kraus doesn’t seem to respect her work much judging from what she wrote about it in her novels.

  7. Dennis, Good day. Again.

    Yeah, I’m wondering if he wasn’t like, “I’m thirsty and hungry. I need to find one of those humans.” I mean, he was just sitting right there at my foot, an inch or two away. He did try to run a bit when I reached for him, but I wasn’t having it. We changed his cage last night, got it all nice and clean. Amazing how many of the latches and shit were undone. LPS!

    Yes, we’ll be leaving Friday. First plane is at 7:48 at Dulles in VA. Then to JFK for an hour and a half layover. Then to London. We’ll get there at 10:50 a.m. Saturday morning. We’re psyched.

  8. Dennis check your E-Mail. I’ve sent you a new “Petit MacMahon”

  9. Hey Dennis! Something I picked up on your comments on the length of a novel. Today you mentioned the shorter length of Acker’s Great Expectations being a good thing, and I also saw you write at some point earlier that your upcoming novel will be barely 20,000 words. What are your thoughts on the length of novels in general? Did you mean in Acker’s case that length is good, or do you believe the shorter length has special powers?

    I’m working on a novel in my native language at the moment and I decided it has to be around 25,000 words because of its form, delivery and intensities, but in the local literary culture that’s considered pretty underwhelming. Anyway, congrats on completing the new book! I’ve also e-mailed you my poems twice, since I got your address last year, but I’ve read you’re indeed very busy. I just have this terror that they were really bad. But I guess it’s ok even if they were really bad! Take care

  10. Hey Dennis, something I picked up on your comments on the length of a novel. Today you mentioned the shorter length of Acker’s Great Expectations being a good thing, and I also saw you write at some point earlier that your upcoming novel will be barely 20,000 words. What are your thoughts on the length of novels in general? Did you mean in Acker’s case that length is good, or do you believe the shorter length has special powers?

    I’m working on a novel in my native language at the moment and I decided it has to be around 25,000 words because of its form, delivery and intensities, but in the local literary culture that’s considered pretty underwhelming. Anyway, congrats on completing the new book! I’ve also e-mailed you my poems twice, since I got your address last year, but I’ve read you’re indeed very busy. I just have this terror that they were really bad. But I guess it’s ok even if they were really bad! Take care

  11. Hi Dennis – Are you seeing my comments? I can’t tell if the blog is wonky or I’m screwing something up. Probably the latter, knowing me. Anyway – let me know. I’m feeling lonely! B

  12. Love this book/day. Thanks so much for assembling it! It’s interesting that nobody’s tried this approach exactly since, it seems so endless with potential. Hopefully my email got through. I’m pretty sure FC2 is sending you a physical copy of Drain Songs since you blurbed it. I want to get you a copy of Peripatet as well, I think you’d enjoy it. I hope this finds you well!

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