Less a story, more a series of vignettes – starting with the killer dialogue of ‘The Whores in Jail at Night’ (major Genet vibes) – reading this is to be plugged into the danger and glamour of NYCs queer culture. It’s beguiling and fucking terrifying in equal measure. Needless to say, I’m obsessed by it. This period of NY history has left a lasting imprint of my psyche: Acker, Peter Hujar, David Wojnarowicz, Halston, Studio 54, Danceteria, Fab 5 Freddy, Basquiat, Haring, Ciccone. I couldn’t have written This Brutal House without this story and these ghosts.
First published by Top Stories #9, 1979; reissued as a standalone Penguin Modern #27 by Penguin Modern Classics, 2018
I’m not sure that this is a short story but then Kathy Acker probably didn’t know what it was either. “THE LAND IN ALGERIA IS PINK LIFE IN THIS AMERICA STINKS” is how it begins and any literature so bold grabs my attention. And where are we with this “story”? We’re in Algeria and New York, in an orgy of origination and borrowings, of sex and violence, of torture and text. Acker’s going through a re-evaluation. Forgotten for a decade or so, there is now a biography by Chris Kraus, a re-issue of Blood and Guts in High School in Penguin Modern Classics and another biography will be published next year. The trouble with Acker is her life overshadows her writing, the post-punk poet, the princess of plagiarism, the tattooed postmodernist who was all textuality and sexuality. But read her books – if you can get hold of them – Acker takes Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs’s cut-up method and shoots it full of deconstruction, she doesn’t even bother to cut up the source material, she just lobs it in like a fragmentation grenade, the narrative littered with smithereens of Georges Bataille, Pierre Guyotat, Jean Genet and Stephen Barber. But what Acker’s writing does for these “borrowed” texts is unleash an energy, an untapped source of reference and drive. Let us hope her other works are re-published.
Aloes Books, 1984. Also included in Hatred of Capitalism: A Semiotext(e) Reader, eds Chris Kraus & Sylvère Lotringer, Semiotext(e), 2001. Online here)