by Edward Robinson
Although many writers have cited Burroughs as an influence, few have followed his lead to the extent that Kathy Acker has. Fewer still have been so open about the degree to which they have drawn upon his ideas. During her career, she frequently acknowledged her indebtedness, citing him as her central influence.1 Acker often wrote using methods derived from Burroughs, taking The Third Mind as her inspiration. This is noted by Peter Woollen, who observes, 'it was not one of the master's more straightforwardly literary works - The Naked Lunch, for example - which intrigued her the most, but a much more formally extreme and experimental text.'2 Acker herself described how she 'used The Third Mind as experiments to teach myself how to write.'3
Born in 1948, Acker grew up in New York City.4 According to Calcutt and Shepherd, the uncertainty regarding her age is 'indicative of a contrary writer committed to both the destruction and creation of identity,' a suggestion which is relatively accurate in describing at least one of Acker's primary preoccupations.5 Although she would later return to an academic environment in a teaching capacity, while initially at college she studied a number of writing courses - all of which she 'hated:'6
I took a lot of writing courses when I was in college... They were just torture... I reacted in this kind of this radical anti-authority stance, anti-right rules of writing. I started off by saying 'no' to everything. My whole identity as a writer was in saying 'no,' in reacting. So in my first books I refused to rewrite. I wrote as fast as possible. I refused to have any consideration for proper grammar or proper syntax. In a way, [those books] were very easy and what they were was experiments.7
That Acker should describe those early works as experiments is noteworthy, as much of the experimentalism was based on the practices detailed in The Third Mind, breaking down the flow of narrative to create a discontinuous, cut-up style of prose. Having studied classical literature as an undergraduate as Brandeis University, Acker possessed a knowledge of canonical literary texts, and was therefore 'qualified' in academic terms to rebel and experiment.8 Moreover, her formal education left her disaffected: Avital Ronell suggests that 'as far as Acker was concerned... universities have peculiar transmission problems: they transmit stupidity,' and this led her to write against all she had learned.9 This involved relinquishing authorial control, 'a commitment to the avant-garde tradition' and the distribution of her writing in serial form as part of a mail-art network.10
Leaving home at 18, she worked in a sex show and became involved in the New York art scene, and in time began writing. Her involvement with the art scene was primarily of a poetical persuasion, particularly the Black Mountain poets, and this too proved to be a great influence on her early writing, as she told Karl Schmieder: 'The first book - it wasn't a novel - was called Politics. That was a bunch of prose pieces with poetry surrounding the prose pieces. It was very much a Burroughs-like diary. Kind of Interzoney.'11 This text effectively set the blueprint for the first stage of her career, which can be roughly divided into three. The first runs from the late 1960s to the mid 1970s, and is defined by the incorporation of passages created using the cut-up method as detailed by Burroughs and Gysin in The Third Mind. The texts of this period include Politics (1968); The Burning Bombing of America: The Destruction of the U.S. (1972) and Rip-Off Red, Girl Detective (1973), which she describes as 'a pornographic mystery story.'12 The second phase of her career is one of transition, and is marked by a shift from syntactic cut-ups toward outright plagiarism and a method that could be more accurately described as cut and paste than cut-up. In the texts of this period, as exemplified by The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula by The Black Tarantula (1973) and The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec by Henri Toulouse Lautrec (1975), Acker intercut larger sections of narrative from different sources. Where she overtly plagiarised from her source texts, by simply copying sections of them out, she sought to 'represent' the texts, and address the question, 'if I repeated the same text, would it be the same text?'13 In this way, she addresses the issues of ownership and authorship. Significantly, she can also be seen to be using a method based on 'cutting up' existing texts to apply the type of 'appropriation [that] has been some sort of postmodernist technique in the arts for a number of years' to writing, thus returning to the point which inspired the cut-up method, namely to apply 'the montage technique to words on a page.'14
The later works of this phase saw the introduction of illustrations and diagrams to create multimedia texts with a collage-like feel, as represented by Blood and Guts in High School (1978). Here, as Woollen observes, she incorporates 'calligraphy, self-draw dream maps and Persian and Arabic script... she simply added these new techniques to her ongoing concern with experimental writing.'15 The texts of her third and final phase continue to reflect this concern with experimental writing, and incorporate elements of the preceding periods. These later texts are, however, distinguished by a more prominent focus on narrative. The works of this period, which include Empire of the Senseless (1988); In Memoriam to Identity (1990) and Pussy, King of the Pirates (1996), use longer sections of interweaving narrative to reflect switches between speaker, time and location.
Her first 'novel,' The Childlike Life of Black Tarantula by the Black Tarantula was published in 1973.16 Her breakthrough to public prominence came with Blood and Guts in High School. Between then and her death from breast cancer in 1997, she published a considerable volume of novels, collections of essays and a number of short stories which appeared in various anthologies and small-press magazines.
In this essay, I shall devote a section to each phase of her career. Because of the volume of work Acker produced, and also because of the nature of her works, which is intended to confuse and to raise more questions than answers, I will be focusing on specific texts which best exemplify the ways in which the cut-up approach has been manifested within her output. To this end, I will first discuss The Bombing Burning of America, with a view to establishing the origins of Acker's interest in cut-up modes of narrative. I will then move on to examine her transition from cut-up to more elaborate variations on the technique, with particular attention to her mixed-media works, as represented by Blood and Guts in High School, and explore the ways in which these experimental collage texts draw from Burroughs' experimental works of the 1960s and 1970s, in particular The Third Mind and The Book of Breeething. In the third section of the essay, I will consider Acker's later work in the form of her final novel, Pussy, King of the Pirates. In this section I will examine her writing's continued evolution, and consider the significance of pirates and piracy, and the question of 'myth.' I will also be addressing the way in which the developments in Acker's later works reflect the ways in which she adapted and evolved her own modes of cutting up narrative.
Early Cut-Ups: Acker and the Third Mind
Politics represents Acker's first attempt at writing, and was only published posthumously.17 The scenes and locations shift without clear distinction, and the narrative is unconventional and non-literary, with her disregard for 'proper grammar or proper syntax' clearly evident. The punctuation is minimal, creating a rapid, almost jumbled stream rather than a smooth flow in sequential or syntactic terms, and reflects her interest in 'doing everything I wasn't supposed to do. And writing badly.'18 The following passage is exemplary:
after we had dinner at this god awful chinese restaurant fake chinese gardens the waiter shit wouldn't give another bowl to us for the winter melon soup for two on the menu Mickey was barely able to kiss Mark goodbye we went to Mark's house 13th and A stories about how If you venture out there after dark one block or more you automatically get raped mugged castrated we smoked went into the bedroom to see the new waterbed19
The events depicted are in themselves unremarkable, and with only minimal detail. Where detail is provided, it serves to accentuate the negative: 'fake chinese;' 'the waiter shit.' Moreover, the fake chinese hints at the artifice Acker would focus on in her later works as she strove to construct and destroy - often within the same text - distinctions between reality and fiction. The lack of punctuation and regular capitalisation produces a jumbled, disorientating narrative, in which is unclear at which point the reader is to 'break' or breathe- an effect also common to cut-up texts. This was clearly Acker's intention, as she recalls writing Politics by 'cutting in tapes, cutting out tapes, using a lot of dream material, using other people's dreams, doing a lot of Burroughs experiments.'20 The Burroughs-style experiments may not be so clearly apparent, but this passage shows a mode of writing that attempts to break down the conventions of grammar and punctuation. Such disregard for these conventions represents a challenge to accepted notions of literary writing, and in this way Politics was emblematic of Acker's desire to attack not only 'the establishment,' but also the control mechanisms embedded within the established protocols of language. She further explained the reasoning behind her early writing style as follows: 'I came out of a poetry world... 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.'21 Of the prose writers she did feel an affinity with, she cited Burroughs as her 'first major influence,' stating, '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...'22 The Burning Bombing of America clearly illustrates this, developing from the stream of conscious narrative of Politics to a clear adoption of the cut-up method.
all plants and animals burst into flames/light through the hole the circle of waters we walk to the New City at night flamethrowers colour bombs cats fly through your hair governing men the Tao Te Ching like governing horses we are ready the images are ready we are ready to move at the first sight of morning 23
This passage is typical of The Burning Bombing of America as a whole, combining fragments that appear to be drawn from news items, poems and a miscellany of other sources at random. The recurrent juxtaposition of objects - plants, animals, flamethrowers - with synonyms for explosions and fire provides a thematic unity and creates an apocalyptic scene that suggests what the destruction of America might be like. The reference to images can be seen to allude to the text's own construction as a sequence of images, and this clearly illustrates how closely Acker followed Burroughs' lead, not only in terms of applying the cut-up method, but in the selection of some of her source materials. Both the content and rhythm of The Burning Bombing of America is extremely close to Burroughs' cut-up works, and also to those of Weissner and Pélieu that most rigidly follow the directions in The Third Mind. Indeed, some sections bear a remarkable similarity to Burroughs' Nova trilogy, suggesting the possibility that Burroughs' texts, along with other Beat writings, may have provided source material.
1920 Free all prisoners leave people's minds alone only our personal life exists fish leap through our hair our limbs tangle we mutilate each other take guns slash off our heads long orange machetes [...] not now known I lonely praise Gertrude Stein Walt Whitman Allen Ginsberg the women of you American apocalypse visions who fly to the raging beams moon revolution every 1/3 second faster than any dynamite thought 24
The way in which the fragmentation of phrases reveals new phrases and new images clearly shows an attempt to test the replicability of Burroughs and Gysin's initial experiments. Phrases like 'fish leap through our hair' and 'long orange machetes' echo curious abstractions like Pélieu's 'with revolvers aimed... finger bowls.' Such phrases link back to Gysin's suggestion that cutting up could produce 'abstract prose,' and also highlight the Surrealist lineage of the original cut-ups which appeared in Minutes to Go. However, Acker's punctuation - or lack of - does mark a point of difference between her cut-ups and those of her precursors. Whereas Burroughs, Weissner and Pélieu all marked the intersections between the fragments of text with various typographical characters, including em dashes and ellipses, Acker simply uses additional spacing. This achieves an effect of reduced separation: the fragments run together more in the absence of concrete visual breaks, creating more of a continuous flow of 'narrative.' A focus on building narrative and on using different narrative voices would become a prominent feature of the next stage in her literary development.
Blood and Guts: Cut and Paste
Although Acker referred to herself as a plagiarist, conceding that 'if I had to be totally honest I would say that what I'm doing is breach of copyright,' her writing does not comply with the strictest definition of plagiarism.25 'I change words,' she explains, and Woollen notes, 'it wasn't really plagiarism because she was quite open about what she did,' and she never attempted to pass the works of others off as her own.26 'I have been very clear that I use other people's material... I've always talked about it as a literary theory and as a literary method,' she says.27 As she also wrote, 'I do not write out of nothing, or from nothing, for I must write with the help of other texts.'28 Here, she alludes to the complex relationship between creativity, influence, authorship and ownership. She contends that identity is 'questionable', and that ownership 'must be questioned.'29 As Robert Lort writes: 'Kathy Acker's pseudo-plagiarism is a method she uses in which she appropriates texts from different sources and proceeds to then deconstruct them by playing with them, modifying them, layering, rearranging, rewriting and fragmenting the original texts.'30 This 'pseudo-plagiarism' is sometimes apparent from the titles of her works alone: Great Expectations; Don Quixote: Which Was a Dream; and Hannibal Lecter, My Father provide just three examples of titles drawn from precursive texts, and illustrate just one way in which she 'undermined the staple myths if originality, of literary ownership and reliable reference.'31 Great Expectations was written by 'cutting it up, not even rewriting, just taking it and putting it together again, like playing with building blocks.'32 Such an approach shows the common ground shared with Burroughs and Gysin, and practically demonstrates the way a writer does 'choose, edit and rearrange words at his disposal' and manipulate words as an artist would paint.33 This method of appropriation succeeded her initial cut-up approach, and represents the beginning of the second stage of her career. More than this, it represents her first move away from simply using Burroughs' methods for her own ends, and her first contribution to the evolution of the cut-up technique.
Much of Acker's 'plagiarism' served as a means of exploring the relationship of her own writing with canonical texts, and as a way of discovering her own identity. As she explained in Bodies of Work (1997), 'in my confusion, I look to older writing, as I have often done when I am confused. I look to find a clue about my writing.'34 This 'older writing' ranged from Faulkner, Artaud and Cervantes, to Genet and Dickens. Burroughs, however, proved a constant source of reference: 'I keep returning to American literature [and] to the books of William Burroughs.'35 To this end, The Childlike Life of The Black Tarantula sees Acker apply a cut-up approach to sections of narrative, splicing and interweaving 'very direct autobiographical, just diary material, right next to fake diary material. I tried to figure out who I was and who I wasn't and went to texts of murderesses. I just changed them into the first person... and put the fake first person next to the true first person.'36 This practice of directly copying and making minor alterations to existing texts represents the application of a lesson she learned from one of her early mentors, poet David Antin, who, aware of his students' lack of life experience, would tell them, "don't be afraid to copy it out... Kathy really took that ball and ran with it."37
Black Tarantula opens with a diary entry dated June 1973, which begins, 'I become a murderess. I'm born in the autumn or winter of 1827. Troy, New York... My name is Charlotte Wood.'38 The chapter continues with Wood's brief biography, interspersed with fragments that stand at odds with the tone and structure of the linear chronological narrative: 'Do you want me to call you yes. I call Friday call Saturday Sunday this is Kathy O uh do you want to spend a night with me again are you too busy I'm too busy uh goodbye.' These fragments, with their unpunctuated anti-literary style clearly mark the sections of diary material against the 'copied' sections. Wood's biography is followed by a series of brief biographies of other women. These biographies appear as straightforward narratives, detailing family life, encounters and relationships. However, intercut paragraphs appear incongruous to the overall flow of the narrative:
when I sit on my waterbed where I write the material of the crotch of the pants presses against my cunt lips I'm always slightly hot I masturbate often when I write I write a section 15 minutes to an hour...'39
Such inclusions break the continuity of the narrative, and one is frequently compelled to question precisely who is speaking, and to consider whether or not the scene is factual or fictional. At the end of each chapter, Acker places an endnote listing the sources appropriated in the construction of the text. The endnote to chapter one states that 'events are taken from myself, Enter Murderers! By E.H. Bierstadt, Murder for Profit by W. Boltholio, Blood in the Parlour by D. Dunbar, Rogues and Adventuresses by C. Kingston,' disclosing her method.40 Elsewhere, Sade's Justine, Alexander Trocchi's Helen and Desire and Thérèse and Isabelle by V. Leduc are listed as sources alongside 'my past, and my fantasies.'41 Through the application of this technique, Acker exposes the way in which identity is not fixed, as the 'narrator' is revealed to be a shifting succession of narrators spliced to create a single, but not necessarily unified 'whole.' The end result is a cut-up composite character, or, perhaps more accurately, a composite narrator formed with facets if numerous characters. This functions in a different way from the cut-up characters who populate Pélieu's With Revolvers Aimed, in that Acker presents a composite personality, rather than a composite 'being' constructed from random body parts. Acker's 'split' composite narrator, upon whom facets of murderesses are amalgamated within and superimposed upon the single speaker, explores her interest in 'the model of schizophrenia.'42 She explained her interest in identity arguing that 'it's a thing that's made. You create identity, you're not given identity per se... texts create identity.'43 Acker's composite narrator shares common ground with the Burroughs / Balch film Bill and Tony in the speaking heads of Burroughs and Balch swap names and voices, creating a third mind / body of sorts. Yet in other ways, the composition of Black Tarantula represents a completely new development within the evolution of the cut-ups, not least of all in the way that the appropriated texts are purposefully altered.
Blood and Guts in High School continued to develop the incorporation of diary material alongside pieces of texts appropriated from other sources by introducing graphic and visual elements, and became Acker's first book to be published in Britain, appearing in a single volume alongside Great Expectations (first published 1982) and My Death, My Life (1983) in Blood and Guts in High School Plus Two (1984).44 This publication garnered considerable attention and brought her fame and notoriety in almost equal measure. Such polarized critical reception of her work persisted throughout her life, and even beyond. 'In the canon of cult fiction, there are few writers who have proved so controversial that their death has prompted a sheaf of for and against letters in a national newspaper, as occurred in the Guardian after Acker's untimely demise,' note Calcutt and Shepherd.45
As much a loosely-ordered sequence of scenes, dreamscapes and psychodramas as a novel in the conventional sense, Blood and Guts invites comparison to both Naked Lunch and the works that followed the Nova trilogy for its experimental formulation and modes of presentation. The book follows the central character, Janey, from her home with her father to Tangier in the company of Jean Genet and beyond. Initially the most striking feature of the book is the presentation. The text is interspersed with sketches and illustrations, maps and diagrams, and uses a broad range of different typefaces. Many of the sketches, which predominantly feature in the book's first section 'Inside High School,' take the form of crude line drawings depicting erect penises and open vaginas. These are intended to be shocking and serve to set Acker's anti-literary, 'radical anti-authority stance, anti-right rules' agenda from the outset.46 In addressing the non-conformist stance presented within the book's formulation, Niall Lucy encapsulates the way in which Acker's work divided the critics more generally:
To say... that Blood and Guts in High School shouldn't be undervalued for not meeting a standards of literature defined by novels like Jane Eyre would not be to say that, simply because of its nonconformity, therefore it represents a radical challenge to that standard or exposes the oppressive illusion that literature could ever be understood in terms of standards. (Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and the nonconformity of Acker's novel could just be the consequence of bad writing rather than transgressive writing.)47
Such criticisms overlook Acker's extensive knowledge of classical, canonical and avant-garde literature, and in this context it is less problematic to accept Blood and Guts as simply transgressive. The book is essentially a collage, incorporating calligraphy, sketches and broken mise en page. The sections 'The Persian Poems' and 'The World,' the latter of which consists purely of annotated diagrams and illustrations, exist almost wholly separately from the main narrative and apart from the loosely-structured, fragmented 'plot.' In this way, Acker's indebtedness to cut-up and multimedia texts like The Third Mind, White Subway and The Book of Breeething, is immediately apparent.48 That Blood and Guts is constructed from a series of discontinuous short passages is significant also, bearing structural similarities to Naked Lunch. Burroughs famously remarked that 'you can cut into The Naked Lunch at any intersection point,' and Acker believed the same to be true of Blood and Guts, responding to Lotringer's suggestion that 'I don't think you would expect your readers to read your novels from beginning to end' by commenting 'no, on the whole they can read wherever they want... you could read pretty much anywhere.'49
To consider Blood and Guts in a loosely chronological order remains the most logical approach here, however. The book opens with a brief introduction of the central character, Janey Smith. We are informed that she is ten years old, and that her mother died when she was a year old. As a result, she 'depended on her father for everything, and regarded her father as boyfriend, brother, sister, money, amusement, father' (B&G 7). Immediately we learn that 'Janey and Mr Smith had been planning a big vacation for Janey in New York City in North America. Actually Mr Smith was trying to get rid of Janey so he could spend all his time with Sally, a twenty-one-year-old starlet who was still refusing to fuck him' (B&G 7). The prose style is simple, the declarative sentences basic, paratactic in formation. The phraseology and limited use of punctuation renders the style simplistic to the point of appearing naive: the prose possesses an unedited roughness.
Less simple is the relationship between Janey and her father. Within the first three paragraphs, it is apparent that their relationship is not 'normal.' That Janey should bestow upon her father so many roles is indicative of a twisted psychology, while her father's plan to 'get rid of Janey' suggests he is at best a poor parent. That Janey calls him 'Johnny,' and 'fucks him even though it hurts like hell 'cause of her Pelvic Inflammatory Disease' (B&G 10) further illustrates the unusual and deeply disturbing nature of their relationship. The similarity of the two characters' names is of interest, suggesting something of an interchangeability between the two, a cut-up composite character of sorts. Janey's direct descendance from Johnny is highlighted by this association, their genetic connection accentuated by the similarity of their names, while at the same time the subtle difference between their names serves to also illustrate the variations in their genetic makeup. The connotation of the 'father figure' is also significant, as the traditional role of the father figure is one of authority. The relationship is emblematic of Acker's own difficult and complex relationship with authority, through which she consciously rebelled against authority in the form of her college tutors and her literary forbears.
It is clear that the relationship between Janey and her father involves mutual abuse and that the sexual aspect is far from loving: there is a distrust between the characters. That this 'family unit' exists, even within a fictional context, serves to challenge the idea of 'norms.' The relationship between Janey and her father questions the idea of social norms as exemplified by the traditional nuclear family. Perhaps what renders the depiction of their relationship most shocking is the matter-of-fact tone of the narrative. Echoing the satirical passages of Naked Lunch, which saw Burroughs' text on trial for obscenity, Acker passes no authorial comment on the morality of the scenario, and she consequently found Blood and Guts the subject of legal scrutiny in Germany in 1986. The Federal Inspection Office for Publications Harmful to Minors commented in its report on the text, 'it is confusing in terms of sexual ethics.'50 The report also records that 'the structure of the plot is in part quite difficult to understand. It is partially very hard or completely impossible for the reader to see whether we are dealing with the protagonist's imagination or real events.'51 Herein lies a key issue of the text's structure: not only is the narrative broken syntactically by fragmentary sentences and ambiguous punctuation, but it is also constructed from larger fragments which disrupt any overarching narrative continuity. In this sense, Acker can be seen to be applying the principles of the cut-ups to blocks of text, on a narrative rather than textual level.
The relationship between Janey and Johnny also represents a feminized adaptation of the Oedipal myth. This represents a common theme in Acker's work, namely the practice of revising existing texts and stories, often by inverting and reversing gender roles, and demonstrates her knowledge of classical literature. The significance of Oedipal conflict and the connotations of this particular myth to Acker was considerable, on account of the great influence it has had over the psychoanalysis of male / female and familial relations from Freud to the present. The version of the family portrayed by Acker in Janey and Johnny a possible outcome of when Freud's 'tripartite formula - the Oedipal, neurotic one: daddy-mommy-me' is deviated from.52 Also connected to the Oedipal mode of discourse is the idea of 'Anti-Oedipus,' put forth by Deleuze and Guattari, which proved to have a profound effect on Acker as Lort notes:
Acker was very influenced by French intellectual thought, particularly feminist thought, and was on familiar terms with Bataille and de Sade (writers considered dubious by most other feminists). But... it wasn't until she had read Anti-Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia by the radical French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and his accomplice Felix Guattari and other works by Michel Foucault that she finally understood on a theoretical level what she had been doing intuitively. Only then did she finally have words to describe what she had been doing.53
Acker's work prior to her reading of Anti-Oedipus can be seen not simply as 'experimental,' but as the open workings of an author trying to understand herself, her ways of thinking and the context in which these exist. The narrative switches, interchangeable identities and confused roles are perfectly matched to the schizophrenic tendencies Deleuze and Guattari identify and both endemic within and symptomatic of modern consumerist society. Deleuze and Guattari observe how Freudian psychoanalysts have 'often tried to lead the schizophrenic down the road to ego formation, and normality [which] has often meant forcibly imposing the Oedipal cycle, which is supposedly characteristic of normal psychic development.'54 In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari consider the connection between late capitalism and schizophrenia. As Jonah Peretti argues, the current consumerist climate not only accelerates the flow of capital, but also the rate at which subjects assume identities. To this end, the schizophrenic state is, if not an 'ideal' state, then one which is closely linked to postmodern society, in which advertisers or 'production machines' require the consumer to act as a 'desiring machine,' and to assume and dissolve identities at a pace in keeping with the rate that images and advertisements are bombarded at them. Acker describes reading Anti-Oedipus as a revelation, stating, 'when I read Anti-Oedipus and Foucault's work, suddenly I had this whole language at my disposal.'55 Clearly, even prior to her reading of Anti-Oedipus, Acker was instinctively writing against the 'normative' Oedipal cycle, and also demonstrating a postmodern or schizophrenic approach to the formation of shifting identity, but her discovery of the text brought about a greater degree of self-awareness in her writing.
Through her portrayal of the Janey and Johnny, the use of language and the phraseology, the narrative is within itself representative of a challenging of (literary) norms and is demonstrative of the rebellion which lies at the heart of Acker's work. Acker's refusal to have 'any consideration for proper grammar or proper syntax' is evident.56 One can almost sense her refusal 'to rewrite,' and that the writing was done 'as fast as possible,' supporting her claim that 'I write to get it out of me. I don't write to remember it.'57
In keeping with her determination to write against convention, Blood and Guts skips between narrative voices and modes of presentation frequently and in rapid succession. This shows a continuity within her work, as the splicing of different narratives in Blood and Guts represents a fairly straightforward development of the way different texts were intercut in Black Tarantula and The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec.58 Her method of 'collaging' different narratives shows a clear lineage from the original cut-up method, as well as a distinct development in its application, the transition from cut-up to 'cut and paste.' After just half a page of narrative prose, there is a switch to an alternative method of presentation as she turns to dialogue presented in script form.
Janey: You're going to leave me. (She doesn't know why she's saying this.)
Father: (dumbfounded, but not denying it): Sally and I just slept together for the first time. How can I know anything?
Janey: (in amazement) She didn't believe what she had been saying was true. It was only out of petulance: You ARE going to leave me. Oh no. That can't be.
Father: (also stunned):I never thought I was going to leave you. I was just fucking. (B&G, 7)
This exchange of dialogue further highlights the strangeness of the relationship between Janey and her father, and is indicative of the multiplicity of roles her father plays in Janey's life: he is, in effect, a cut-up composite of many characters within a single 'shell.' Through the scripted dialogue we see the mechanisms of the relationship between Janey and her father, and the way in which insecurity and confusion provide its basis. In this sequence, we see further evidence of the duality of Janey's relationship with Johnny as a dual metaphor for Acker's exploration of male / female relations as well as her own complex relationship with her literary forebears. As Acker noted, 'the canon' was created by male writers, and throughout her career she worked to establish, or, moreover, to understand her place as a woman writer. 'From the time of my high school days, I have known, in the way that one knows the streets of one's city and the laws of one's culture, the names of those in the pantheon of great... American writers. The big men. There weren't many, any, women,' she wrote.59 Like Burroughs before her, Acker believed that language equals power; therefore, that the canon is a male creation is a signifier of male dominance within culture and society.60
The use of the script format is most unusual within the context of a novel, and it is most likely that Acker adopted the style of presentation in light of Burroughs' use of script dialogue in Naked Lunch, The Wild Boys, the Nova trilogy and The Last Words of Dutch Schultz. Unlike Burroughs' scripts, there is little sense of the filmic in Acker's script. However, she had previously written performance pieces, including The Birth of the Poet, which includes lengthy sections of language exercises and translations in Arabic which are not readily performable.61 Nevertheless, Acker's incorporation of script passages do serve the function rendering the editing of text analogous to that of film, and in this way continuing to pursue the objectives of the cut-ups of her literary precursors, namely to bring the act of reading closer to that of real life.
In terms of directions, Acker's 'script' contains no 'movement.' The characters make no gesticulations, and so appear static within their location. Because of this, the entrances and exits of characters from scenes are somewhat problematic. Janey is shown to speak 'as her father was leaving the house.'(B&G 10) A page on, he speaks again, without seemingly re-entering. There is no mention of his return, and nor is there any mention of where he goes to when he leaves. In Blood and Guts, we do not always know precisely how the characters arrive at a given location. We do not see them leave scenes, and how they appear at the next scene, we know not. Such discontinuity presents little problem in the context of a cut-up narrative, the function of which is to dispense with the need to detail movement, and Burroughs contended that 'the reader can fill those gaps.'62 Acker's contention, too, was that the transportation of the characters and such things didn't matter. Moreover, she was of the opinion that the very sequencing of events within a book could be more or less arbitrary. This would suggest that Burroughs' prediction that 'new techniques, such as cut-up, will involve much more the total capacity of the observer' (TM 6) had been fulfilled and that the cut-ups had finally resulted in the re-education of writers, if not readers. Perhaps for this reason, the narrative continuity, in terms of sequentiality and 'speaker' is questionable in Blood and Guts. For example, upon her father's leaving the house, Janey calls her father's best friend. Their conversation is continued within the same continuous sequence of dialogue, and so effectively merges two separate locations within a single setting, cutting through the artificial time / space sequencing which is commonly imposed upon events within conventional narrative and which Burroughs strove to dispense with through the development of the cut-ups. Elsewhere, the events which serve to move the plot along (develop would be a rather inappropriate choice of word) are confined to the briefest of inclusions. 'Mr Smith puts Janey in school in New York City to make sure she doesn't return to Merida.'(B&G, 31) 'She left high-school and lived in the East Village...' (B&G, 44). Acker explained her approach to sequential narrative thus:
I certainly don't believe linear time is adequate. So you don't need to structure a novel according to linear time or even according to memory, flashbacks plus linear time. I don't think that's the kind of world that I live in. So, if I'm going to do anything that has any relation to my own life, which it has to, I'm not going to write in terms of linear time.63
By taking this stance, Acker can be seen to be attempting to address the problem of conventional narrative that the cut-up technique was devised to address, namely that of creating a mode of narrative that brings writing closer to reality, echoing Burroughs' assertion that 'consciousness is a cut-up; life is a cut up.' 64
The arbitrary approach to sequence within Blood and Guts is nowhere more strongly evidenced than in the 'letters' from Eric Jong to Janey that appear amidst the pages of Janey's diary in the section 'A journey to the end of the night' (B&G 125-6) - which also appeared as a separate volume, under the title Hello, I'm Erica Jong (1982). These letters both mimic and parody the author, combining 'factual' elements such as the title of the book that brought her to the public's attention with fictitious parody of her style.65
HELLO I'M ERICA JONG. ALL OF YOU LIKED MY NOVEL FEAR OF FLYING BECAUSE IN IT YOU MET REAL PEOPLE. PEOPLE WHO LOVED AND SUFFERED AND LIVED. MY NOVEL CONTAINED REAL PEOPLE. THAT'S WHY YOU LIKED IT. MY NEW NOVEL HOW TO DIE SUCCESSFULLY CONTAINS THOSE SAME CHARACTERS. AND IT CONTAINS TWO NEW CHARACTERS. YOU AND ME. ALL OF US ARE REAL. GOODBYE (B&G 125).
Passages such as this, in the form of 'fake' letters from a 'real' not only blur the boundaries of reality and fiction, but serve to expose the artifice of the format and linearity of 'the novel.' Ultimately, Acker raises more questions than answers, but succeeds in provoking thought concerning the point at which the author and reader engage, and the idea that the authorial voice is only as 'real' as the characters portrayed. Moreover, the inclusion of such elements add to the scrapbook effect, and illustrate just how the cut-up technique had been advanced to a new level of sophistication. If the early cut-ups were intended to expose the mechanisms of control and ways in which language can be manipulated to create 'fiction' and 'history,' then Acker's methods of appropriation, alteration and collaging explore precisely how complex those mechanisms of manipulation really are.
In Blood and Guts the plot soon becomes buried amidst a lengthy sequence of sketches and maps, poems and language exercises in which the male world is attacked from various angles. The line-drawings of open vaginas and ejaculating penises at once celebrate female sexuality whilst also highlighting the 'phallic-oriented' nature of western culture. These drawings, inserted at seemingly arbitrary points within the text, break he vague continuity on the narrative with quite incongruous-looking visual diversions. These images physically cut through and fragment the flow of the narrative. Placed in juxtaposition with the text, these images function quite differently from the collage works of Weissner and McLuhan, as they do not appear to reflect a concern with producing a new 'message' through the contrasting words and images in altered contexts. Instead, in conjunction with the notes which accompany the sketches (these include 'my cunt red ugh' and 'girls will do anything for live' beneath a pair of pared legs displaying an open vagina), the purpose of the sketches, apart from to shock and to attack the boundaries of literary acceptability, is to explore pictorial language, as Burroughs has in The Book of Breeething. Acker's interest in the construct of language is nowhere more apparent than in the 'Persian Poems' section of Blood and Guts. Consisting of some twenty-three pages of 'hand-written' text, 'The Persian Poems' take the form of a series of exercises.
This passage shares common ground with Gysin's permutations, taking the form of simple repetitions with a word being altered in each line. Although not running through every variation of a single phrase, these 'poems' do demonstrate the way in which changing a single word within a phrase can substantially alter its meaning. Thus the exercises explore the way in which word selection and ordering is integral to communication, and is a significant factor in the manipulation of language. These exercises also demonstrate a struggle of sorts, as Acker, through Janey, addresses the issues of the functions language, and of 'naming,' which Kristeva specifies as the beginning of all control and repression: 'Naming... and hence differentiating... amounts to introducing language, which, just as it distinguishes pleasure from pain as it does all oppositions, founds the separation inside/outside.'66 The parallels between Kristeva's theory and Burroughs' are drawn by Lydenberg and when placed in the context of comparative readings of Acker's common recourse to Burroughs' work, the continued trajectory of these theories embedded within literary practice is rendered clearly apparent.67 The similarities between this and pages 113 and 114 of Cities of the Red Night are incontrovertible:
Porque ne tiene Because he doesn't have
Porque la falta Because he lacks
Marijuana por fumar Marijuana to smoke
Janey's language exercises represent the learning of a new language and the relearning of linguistic formulation. The parallel between the character's attempts to relearn formulae for expression with the author's is obvious, given Acker stated intention to 'create a new language' - 'tying to find a kind of language where I won't so easily be modulated by expectation' I'm looking for what might be called a body language'-and to appropriate a means of expression which fulfilled her purposes as a female writer.68 This purpose was, she believed, not so much to reclaim language from the male domain and 'feminise' it, but to degender language and literature, to remove the gender specificity inherent in writing and literature. 'Until I met Sylvère Lotringer, I didn't understand a lot of the reasons I wrote the way I did,' she told Andrea Juno. 'But I think the reason was probably my hatred of gender... a hatred of the expectation that I had to become my womb. My hatred of being defined by the fact I had a cunt.'69 It is interesting, then, to note that Janey's exercises, while opening new doors in terms of scope for expression, show that all languages are built upon the same formulation, and have the same capacity to propagate the same power structures endemic in all societies. The language is formulated so as to create a hierarchy which creates social divisions, differentiating not only a 'this' peasant from 'that' peasant, and a 'good' peasant from a 'bad' peasant, but also creating social divisions: 'peasant,' 'man,' 'woman.' These exercises serve to demonstrate the fundamental truth that language equals power, and whatever language phrases are learned, those phrases still set the coordinates of power and perpetually reinforce social order - an order built on dominance and control over the collective individual.
The section entitled 'The World,' which appears almost as an appendix to Blood and Guts, placed after the end of the narrative, is also concerned with the way in which language is used to order the world around us through the ascription of names to objects, etc., and combines pictorial and textual elements.
Here, there is a definite narrative aspect to the alphabetical writing, but the illustrations could be taken independently to convey the story. The presentation of this section is indicative of Acker's far-ranging interest in language, language formation and language conditioning, as well as her taking not only the original cut-up, but also the variations and extensions of the technique as a starting point for her own exploration. The parallels with The Book of Breeething are clearly apparent, Acker herself acknowledged the fact that Burroughs' work in which he was 'dealing with how language and politics come together, the kind of language, what the image is' was an inspiration. The cutting words and images together in 'The World' functions in the same way as The Book of Breeething, namely to extend writing beyond verbal or alphabetic methods of communication.
'The Persian Poems' and 'The Word' sections create a sense that the reader is not reading a novel, but flicking through someone's personal belongings, a collection of diaries and school exercise books. In this way the purpose of Blood and Guts as a collage, a large-scale cut-up or cut-and-paste, becomes apparent, again evidencing not only the continuities within Acker's work in its incorporation of 'real' diary material and 'fake' diary material, but also the progression of her narrative from her earliest cut-up experiments that so closely emulated the works of Burroughs and Gysin. It is interesting to note that 'The Persian Poems' was actually published as a separate volume, retaining the title The Persian Poems.70 This edition takes the 'notebook' idea to its logical conclusion, appearing in an embossed stiff card cover, held together with staples rather than a more conventional perfect binding, and with the pages unnumbered. Like Burroughs' White Subway, The Persian Poems is presented as a series of experiments and exercises, a scrap-book or exercise book of sorts, showing the mechanisms and the workings of the author - although in The Persian Poems, there remains a greater degree of artifice in that the author is not Acker, but Acker writing as Janey.
Elsewhere in Blood and Guts we find dialogue which makes explicit Acker's view of the function of language and the way in which the control of language represents the ultimate power:
Mr Fuckface:You see, we own the language. Language must be used clearly and concisely to reveal our universe.
Mr Blowjob: Those rebels are never clear. What they say doesn't make sense.
Mr Fuckface: It even goes against all the religions to tamper with the sacred languages.
Mr Blowjob: Without language the only people the rebels can kill are themselves. (B&G, 136)
Here, we see 'two Capitalists' discussing the way in which they use language as a mechanism for control. This exchange reiterates Burroughs' opinion that to control language is to control society. Acker can also be seen here to be allying herself with the 'rebels,' and addressing the issues of her own rebellious 'anti-literary' stance on writing. Borne out of frustration with the writing courses she took (and hated) whilst in college, her rebellious intent was to 'tamper' with language and its use within literature. By incorporating the type of criticism leveled at her work and work like it - 'what they say doesn't make sense' - within the script, Acker not only diffuses the criticism, but reverses the target of the criticism, highlighting the narrow-mindedness and conservative nature of 'the establishment.'
One of Acker's primary objectives was to liberate language in some way. But while Burroughs used the cut-up in connection with his preoccupations with the mechanisms of control and the ways in which language and control are significantly intertwined, Acker was of the opinion that language was reactive to society and culture, and not vice versa.
Language is that which depends on other language. It's necessarily reactive. An isolated word has no meaning. Art, whether or not it uplifts the spirit, is necessarily dependent on contexts such as socio-economic ones. What can this language be which refuses?
The only reaction against an unbearable society is equally unbearable nonsense.71
Within the parameters of reactive language, she strove to break down the language-controlled barriers between the classes in British society, and to challenge the accepted orders of art and literature without producing 'unbearable nonsense'.
The themes of male dominance and 'the big men' of literature are themes which recur throughout Blood and Guts, as is evidenced in Janey's relationship with Jean Genet, whom she encounters after escaping from kidnappers who abduct her subsequent to her leaving school and living in the West Village. That Janey should arrive in Tangier at this point is significant. Having long been considered by many to be an exotic 'never-never land of international intrigue, shady financial dealings and esoteric sex for sale or rent... seedy, salacious, degenerate,' Tangier is also a place to which writers and artists gravitate.72 As Iain Finlayson explains, the Moroccan city's reputation developed from the seventeenth century, from which time it was ruled by European and American consuls. This served to render Tangier a place apart, and an International Zone. 'Tangier was innately corrupt, and... its reputation was condoned by the city authorities... Undoubtedly, some control existed, but it was principally and superficially directed at keeping the peace rather than cleaning up any perceived immorality or enthusiastic free enterprise.'73 Many writers, including Burroughs, Bowles and Genet have written in, on or about Tangier, portraying a city rife with drugs and sex which could readily be bought, and cheaply. Tangier was the inspiration for Burroughs' otherworldly city of Interzone in which much of Naked Lunch takes place. Its amalgamative naming, reflecting the city's status as an inter(national) zone, was no accident.74 Within the context of Acker's writing, then, Tangier is more than simply a location providing a backdrop to her character's activities, as a location with strong associations to the authors she saw as her literary forebears.
At the beginning of their time together, Janey talks to and learns from Genet, but the relationship ends badly, with Janey imprisoned for stealing 'two copies of Funeral Rights [Genet's 1947 novel] and hash' (B&G 133) from Genet. In short, Janey steals from her mentor and is punished. Acker punctuates this section of the book with extensive quotations from Genet's work, and in doing so clearly invites parallels to be drawn between Janey's story and Acker's own theft / plagiarism from her own influencers. Indeed, she comments that 'it's at the end of Blood and Guts in High School when I start really [my italics] using plagiarism, with the Genet stuff.'75 Having already plagiarised heavily from other sources in the past, Acker can be seen to locate this as the point at which she specifically draws together the act of plagiarism with the creation of 'fiction.' The Janey / Kathy 'parable' bridges the gap between the constructs of the fictional time / space continuum (Janey's actions) and the present (the book itself). More significantly, however, is the strongly implicit concern with influence and theft, or plagiarism, and Acker's choice of Genet as a character is significant for a number of reasons, not least of all because he is one of the authors she cited as a major influence on her work. For Acker, influence and plagiarism are almost interchangeable, and that she should 'steal' or appropriate from Genet, a literary forebear who was a thief in the literal sense - his autobiographically-inspired The Thief's Journal (1949) requiring little by way of an explanation here- seems entirely appropriate. Having taken all she can from Genet in terms of discussion and transmitted knowledge, Janey resorts to simply taking - stealing - objects, at which point Genet rejects her, and, once rejected, she in turn rejects him. It is interesting to consider that the way on which Acker's literary influence-relationship with Genet is translated in an almost allegorical manner, and Janey's relationship with Genet in many ways parallels her relationship with Johnny, which is also built around a twisted mutual reliance of sorts.
The similarities between the fiction and the reality are such that, in truth, only the names have been changed - slightly - and that the final theft and rejection in the narrative is literal rather than metaphorical. That Acker has incorporated this influence allegory into the text is indicative of the way in which her own life experiences inform her writing. This is a literal adoption of Genet's personal belief that a writer becomes a writer 'at birth,' something Burroughs also believed.76 The phonetic similarity of Janey's name to and Genet is difficult to ignore, and serves to render explicit the notion that the influencee absorbs greatly from the influencer. Herein lies a suggestion that Acker felt a degree of anxiety regarding her influences, and the way in which influence has a bearing on authorial and individual identity. In her questioning her identity, Janey, and, in turn, Acker feel it necessary to reject the father figure, the influencer. Despite her lifelong connection to Burroughs, there were times at which Acker felt compelled to 'reject' him, saying '20 years ago, everyone thought that Burroughs was some kind of way-out science fiction writer, but now he looks a bit tame.'77 This statement could be interpreted as simply a comment on the development of literature and society and the ways in which Burroughs' apocalyptic future has become the real present. It could also be interpreted as a comment on how the avant-garde becomes accepted within society, and the way in which once society becomes accustomed to something it ceases to be shocking.
Acker further addresses the issue gender relations and social hierarchies variously, returning to the script as a method of dialogue presentation frequently throughout Blood and Guts. This is nowhere more apparent than in her trial for stealing from Genet:
Judge 1: You're a woman.
Judge 2: You whine and snivel. You don't stand up for yourself. You act like you do totally to please other people. You're a piece of shit. You're not real.
Judge 3: You're a whore a thief a liar a smelly fish a money dribbler an egotistic snob.
Judge 4: You have every vice in the world. etc. (B&G, 133)
It is clear that this scene and the characters of the Judges as much vehicles for addressing the issues central to Acker's personal agenda as they are devices of plot, and in this way this scene functions in much the same way as Burroughs' 'routines.' That Acker uses judges to express anti-female opinions is interesting on a number of levels. First and foremost there stands the issue of a judge's social function, that of arbiter of social justice. Judges are supposed to be free from prejudices: the judges in this scene clearly are not. Not only, then, is Acker highlighting, in a satirical fashion, the problems women face in a world in which gender bias remains rife, but she is also attacking the inherent flaws of the 'justice' system. It is also interesting to observe that the first-mentioned judge is noted as being female. Conceivably, Acker is suggesting that to succeed in a male-dominated profession in a male-dominated society, a woman needs to discard her feminine traits and take on male opinions, even if this means to betray her own gender as well as her unbiased, objective perspective. Of course, all of this is implied, as the dialogue is presented without the framing of authorial opinion or overview. It was Acker's opinion that such a lack of context for the 'MTV generation' posed no problem, again reflecting her alignment with Deleuze and Guattari.
We all come out of MTV, so what's the problem? But it's an old conservative crowd that rubs the literary world and they haven't quite gotten that we were all brought up on MTV and we have no problem with this. We don't need things to be continuous. I don't need to be told what the meaning is every 5 minutes. I like garbage. I like noise.78
As Acker comments, writing for her, must have relation to her own life, and to this end strove to represent 'reality.' She saw her work's place, stylistically speaking, as being within the realms of the contemporary 'reality,' and placed her cut-up, montage approach firmly in the postmodern context of the fast cuts, edits and the rapid succession of images which proliferate in pop music videos- after all, 'we all come out of MTV, so what's the problem?' In making this statement, Acker is essentially asserting that her writing, in its non-sequential ordering, in part reflects her life in postmodern society, in which we all now live. The reality of modern living is that we are subjected to a bombardment of images, music videos with fast edits, random and unconnected images and sounds, people and cars passing by, litter, peripheral and meaningless miscellanea and extraneous background noise. But Acker was always keen to subvert any accepted form, and to simply reflect was not the purpose of her writing. As Kathleen Wheeler writes, Acker 'sought to reveal the fact that familiar order and logic are much less native to our experience than we realise, whether we mean inner mental experience or the apparent order of nature and the "external" world. Sanity is, arguably, merely the most familiar form of irrationality.'79 What Acker is also stating is that her writing is, in turn, contributing to that garbage and noise. Even Acker's more linearly-developed passages are subject to deliberate interruption as the text is interspersed almost at random by the sketches and diagrams which appear to only have limited relevance to the text they appear beside. In this sense, the very formulation of Acker's work simultaneously embodies and perverts both the contemporary cultural reality and the nature of memory, echoing Burroughs' opinion that 'life is a cut-up.'80 Moreover, Acker's work illustrates the symptoms of that time and society in a 'schizo' manner as theorised by Deleuze and Guiattari: 'The schizophrenic deliberately seeks out the very limit of capitalism: he is its inherent tendency brought to fulfillment, its surplus product, its proletariat, and its exterminating angel. He scrambles all the codes and is the transmitter of the decoded flows of desire.'81 Acker strongly believed that it was vital for art, in all its forms including writing, to have a close connection to the culture in which it is created. 'If it wasn't for certain community consensus as to the meanings and usages of words, words would be nonsense. Language, then, is deeply discourse: when I use language, I am given meaning and I give meaning back to the community,' she wrote.82 'Posmodernism,' she continues, 'for the moment, is a useful perspective and tactic. If we don't live for and in the, this, moment, we do not live at all.'83 As her career progressed, she became increasingly interested not only in the meanings ascribed to language, but also in the way that 'this moment' in which we live is coloured by history, which is constructed and circulated through the formation of myths and mythology. In the final section of this essay, I consider the way in which she drew on models of mythology and popular genre fiction to explore the notions of twentieth century myths.
Pussy, King of the Pirates: Piracy, Plagiarism and Myth.
Commonly aligned with postmodernism, Acker has also been named by some as a primary exponent of the 'cyberpunk' genre. A subgenre of Science Fiction, another genre with which Acker's work is frequently aligned, other writers whose works are commonly considered to be exemplary of the genre include William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker. Dani Cavallaro, author of Cyberpunk and Cyberculture, differentiates cyberpunk from SF and defines it thus:
Cyberpunk foregrounds the provisional status of all definitions of value, rationality and truth in a radical rejection of the Enlightenment ethos. It amalgamates in often baffling ways the rational and the irrational, the new and the old, the mind and the body, by integrating the hyperefficient structures of high technology with the anarchy of street subcultures. 84
This definition provides the reasoning behind the term 'cyberpunk' by noting that there are two distinct component elements to the genre. Namely, we can see that the 'cyber' aspect refers to all things 'cyber': cybernetics, 'cyberspace' and all associated hardware and peripherals connected to the high technology with which the world of the Internet and global culture, while 'punk' calls to mind the rebellious, anarchic DIY ethos of the music of the punk era of the late 1970s. Cavallaro adds that 'cyberpunk bears many points of contact with postmodern fiction. Indeed, cyberpunk novels are often taught on courses on Postmodernism.'85 Acker's part animal / part human pirates are a curious breed, who in part signify a regression from civilised society, and in equal part can be seen to exemplify the cyberpunk idea of 'posthumanism.'86 Pussy, King of the Pirates certainly warrants is place within these categories, crossing and breaking genre divides as it does by retelling The Story of O (1954) and recounting the life of Antonin Artaud, all within a loose framework based on a feminised version of Treasure Island (1883).87 Acker summarised the plot and its inspiration thus:
Pussy, King of the Pirates, takes two girls from an Egyptian whorehouse to an island where they fight with female pirates. It's loosely related to Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Treasure Island, and the whole idea was triggered after I saw a great Japanese film. In my book the characters enjoy themselves in a landscape that doubles for the female body.88
The book's preface begins with Artaud narrating O's story in a style reminiscent of a children's story or a tale recounted orally: 'When O was a young girl, above all she wanted a man to take care of her...' (PKP 3). Such an introduction sets Acker's agenda from the outset, illustrating the ways in which traditional fairytales and children's stories reinforce gender stereotyping and, according to many feminist theorists, socialise children into adopting conventional gender roles. Thus, the control of individuals through linguistic programming and conditioning can be seen to begin at a young age, and by subverting the conventions of the medium through which this conditioning takes place - namely the children's story - Acker uses Pussy as a vehicle to attack the control mechanism.
The narrator switches between the voices of Artaud and O every two or three pages during the book's opening sequence, breaking the continuity of each of the narratives. These rapid changes between the speakers, which reduce to sections as short as two lines toward the end, fragment two narrative strands, effectively cutting them up, not on a syntactic level, but on a narrative level, with the changes occurring very rapidly in a manner analogous to the editing of a pop video or television commercial, appropriate to the MTV generation's style of viewing.
The main body of Pussy is divided into two primary sections: 'In the Days of Dreaming' and 'In the Days of Pirates.' Here, we find a map of Pirate Island, featuring conventional genre trappings, including places marked 'treasure' and 'dead men coast.' However, there are also areas labelled 'the places for transformations' and 'the repository of dreams' which illustrate the elements Acker introduces from other sources. It is here that we are also presented with a 'manuscript' containing a history of the pirates and told in 'our scummy pirate language' (PKP 68) and are introduced to King Pussy's story. We learn from the outset that she 'always lives inside her own head' (PKP 72). Thus the narrative that follows, in conjunction with the map and the manuscript, presents the reader with a dreamscape in which it is impossible to distinguish the 'facts' from the narrator's imagination. This narrative, which consists of short scenes in which 'reality' and 'imagination' are blurred to the point of indistinction, conveys a history whilst simultaneously revealing, as the early cut-ups did, the problematic nature of the construction of history. Being composed of 'documents' as well as events, both internal and external, as recalled by an unreliable narrator, the text questions the authenticity of 'the document' and idea of a credible unified history, and so addresses the notion of 'history as myth.'
In her narrative, Pussy recounts her experiences of casual sex with drug addicts, pregnancies and abortions, and her separation or from society that ultimately leads her from being 'a nice girl' (PKP 72) to becoming the King of the Pirates. The pirates are presented as not only separate from society, but, quite literally, a breed apart:
Only the woman is doing the cooking because the man's sexist. Since she's a pirate, she won't have anything to do with the humans: either she's cooking for animals or she's cooking up an animal. One is the same as the other.
Right now, her version of cooking is to make animal food out of catshit. (PKP 112)
Part animal, part human, Acker's pirates in part signify a regression from civilised society, and in equal part can be seen to exemplify the cyberpunk idea of 'posthumanism.' Yet once again, the characters in Acker's work do not fit perfectly into this category, replacing the popular 'cyborg' element of the posthuman with a regressive animalism. If, as Anderson believes, 'technology has altered the relationship between humans and the planet' and that 'a bio-information society is emerging, based on the convergence of science and technology,' then Acker presents us with an image of a culture that emerges when the convergence falls apart.89 Acker's pirates show one of the possibilities for the future if, as Fukuyama states, 'Huxley was right, that the most significant threat posed by contemporary biotechnology is the possibility that it will alter human nature and thereby move us into a "posthuman" stage of history.'90 Perhaps Acker's brand of cyberpunk fiction is closer to Mark Fisher's assertion that 'cyberpunk is a convergence: a crossover point not only for fiction and theory, but for everything that either doesn't know its place or is in the process of escaping it.'91 The simple fact is that however one attempts to categorise Acker's work, it does not fit neatly into the definitions of any one genre.
It is questionable whether this tendency to create an ever-increasing array of new and unusual, not to mention increasingly esoteric and intricately defined subgenres reveals more regarding the present nature of fiction or the present nature of criticism, a field Acker felt at odds with on many levels, writing, 'I've never been sure about the need for literary criticism.'92 Throughout her career, she wrote and spoke openly of her feminization of classical mythology in the creation of her own texts. Although not alone in this practice, Acker was without doubt a leader in this field.93 In interviews, she was always wholly open about her drawing from classical literature and 'classics,' even going to far as to suggest that appropriation and the (instinctive) use of other texts is vital for the evolution of literature:
If a work is immediate enough, alive enough, the proper response isn't to be academic, to write about it, but to use it, to go on. By using each other, each other's texts, we keep on living, imagining, making, fucking...94
In Pussy we see a considerable evolution within her work, whilst simultaneously representing the culmination and assimilation of many of the themes which recur in her previous works, and a continued use of 'other texts.' Cut-up passages are also to be found, showing that while making the transition to a more narrative-based approach, she continued to use earlier methods.
. . . vast memories of sacred cities have become lands in themselves . . . strewn across deserts most of whose shifting grounds no human will ever touch . . . traces where there were once no traces . . . these are dreams. (PKP 112)
Used sparingly to convey dreamscape imagery, the cut-up passages fit comfortably wit the fragmentary narrative, which incorporates many of the features common to Blood and Guts: diagrams, maps and mise en page. That the same text would appear in excerpt form accompanied by illustrations in a separate volume entitled Pussycat Fever only highlights the way in which Acker attempted to cut up the narrative not only syntactically, but also by physical or visual means.95 Furthermore, by re-presenting a segment of text from the novel - her own novel - Acker returns to her earlier question 'if I repeated the same text, would it be the same text?'96
Switches of narrator and diary extracts also feature throughout the book. 'You don't read Acker the way you read traditional novelists; you read Acker the way you watch TV, only Acker won't let go of the remote. In Pussy, as in her other works Acker makes plot subsidiary,' comments Brad Tyler.97 However, despite its fragmentary nature, in keeping with the narrative style of Treasure Island, Pussy reflects a concerted attempt to use a more cogent, conventional narrative form:
Lately I've been working on narrative... But I'm starting to worry about self-censorship... I might be writing what people expect me to write, writing from that place where I might be ruled by economic considerations. To overcome that, I started working with dreams, because I'm not too censored when I use dream material.98
Clearly, she felt as though her shift toward 'proper' narrative could be perceived as a shift toward commercialism, and a rejection of her rebellious principles. Reviews of her later work suggest she need not have been excessively worried however, as Gérard Murphy's appraisal reveals: 'Pussy does not engage us in conventional or formal narrative pleasure; which is not to say that we are not indulged in other ways.'99 Her use of dreams, then, provided a means of retaining her sense of creative freedom and to prove - as much to herself as her critics - that she had not 'sold out.' She explained her increasing interest in dreams to Karl Schmeider.
I began looking for the source of dreams, what makes a dream. I realized a dream is a pure movement of desire. And in a dream, you're just watching without judgment, without stoppage, which is what you do when you're not dreaming. Lacan says [the] object of desire is never there. It's an absence and to look for the real meaning of a dream, you have to look for the one point where the dream doesn't make sense, where there is something missing. That will tell you what the dream means. And that fascinated me.100
Of interest here is the theoretical approach Acker took in her approach to considering dreams, in that she makes recourse to Lacan, with whose ideas on 'the imaginary' Burroughs' work draws certain parallels, according to Murphy.101 Burroughs was clear in the direction his exploration of dreams led: 'I am quite deliberately addressing myself to the whole area of what we call dreams. What precisely is a dream?' (TM 1). Acker closely echoed Burroughs' opinion when she wrote, 'without dreams, our desires, especially sexual desires, we will die.'102 But of the greatest significance here is the fact that Acker uses dreams as another means of relinquishing authorial control over the writing and returning to one of the original functions of the early cut-up, namely to bring writing closer to the subconscious mind. By using dreams as a source of inspiration and attempting to replicate the dream experience in narrative, she necessarily arrived at a narrative that moves between locations without the requirement of explaining the details of precisely how the characters are transported from place to place, and unencumbered by the dictates of lineal time or fixed single perspective. To this end, a fragmentary narrative formulated from sections of text that do not necessarily follow sequentially - a cut-up of sorts - represented the most appropriate mode of narrative for her purpose.
Another key motif of Pussy is that of the outsider, as exemplified by Ostracism's diary excerpts:
Pages torn out of my first school diary:
school is a diary
because all headmistresses are cows
Now that I'm in school, I'm never again going to be alone.
I used to hate girls. I remember. Girls are stupid, girls always lie... What I meant was that I was from a different race than all of them. Because the same blood wasn't in me that was in them, I was awkward. I wasn't right. (PKP 113)
O's awareness of the difference between herself and the girls in school places her apart from them. The image of 'the outsider' brings with it implicit associations of the exile, the outlaw. Like Burroughs' pirates in Cities of the Red Night, there is a degree of idealism, of utopianism, about Acker's pirates, who can be seen to represent the type of 'outsider' figure Acker herself could relate to. When questioned by Ellen Friedman about her 'new direction,' which began with Empire of the Senseless, Acker summarised the shift in her approach as 'the search for a myth to live by... I'm looking for a myth. I'm looking for it where no one else is looking... The myth to me is pirates.'103 She continued:
It's like the tattoo... it concerns taking over, doing your own sign-making. In England the tattoo is very much a sign of a certain class and certain people, a part of society that sees itself as outcast. For me the tattoo is very profound. The meeting of the body and, well, the spirit... So that's what I'm saying about looking for the myth with people like that - tattoo artists, sailors, pirates.104
The significance of her remarks on the symbolism of pirates is also interesting on a number of levels, not least of all in that she makes a specific connection between the idea of pirates and myth. On one level, this idea of searching for a myth to live by and having recourse to the historical - the conventional image of pirates remains rooted in the historical tradition of which Treasure Island is a part - would seem to go against all that is contemporary, postmodern and progressive in literary terms, i.e. the things with which Acker is associated. Yet, on another level, pirates match her literary position perfectly. In the first instance, as Acker notes, there is the idea of the pirate as 'outcast,' or, perhaps more accurately, 'outlaw.' 'Not just outcasts - outcasts could be bums - but people who are beginning to take their own sign-making into their own hands. They're conscious of their own sign-making, signifying values, really,' she says.105 This focus on sign-making and the suggestion that the tattoo functions as an ensign is of interest here, because it relates back to the concept of non-verbal or pictorial communication methods. As such, it illustrates Acker's all-encompassing interest in modes of communication and the ways in which her narrative style and the incorporation of images as well as her collage approach echo her concerns; that is to say, the form reflects the content in Pussy. It is a logical step to make the transition from the idea of pirates to piracy, and to consider this in the context of Acker's celebrated career of plagiarism of precursive texts, as Lotringer notes, commenting that plagiarism is when you 'pirate someone else's text. Or rather hijack it, which is the etymology.'106 The significance of pirates to Acker on a personal level becomes plainly apparent in this context. If Burroughs' Cities of the Red Night represented a shift from active piracy (of other texts, in the form of the cut-ups) within the Burroughs oeuvre, then Acker's Pussy makes an explicit and all-encompassing link between plagiaristic piracy and piracy in all other, broader senses. Having hijacked the works of others previously, Pussy sees Acker not only hijacking and selectively retelling the story of Antonin Artaud, and more traditional genre fiction, but also moving into the realms of 'pirate' radio, recording an album to accompany the book with UK new wave act The Mekons.107 The record itself represents another act of piracy, hijacking musical styles from corruptions of traditional shanty songs to tribal drumming via 'pseudodisco.'108 The record is not a simple spoken-word reading of the book with background music, but something of a soundtrack inspired by scenes and characters from the book, and in keeping with Acker's exploration of identity, the recording personnel are all credited under appropriate pseudonyms.109
Elsewhere, we find other references to piracy also. 'The décor in the room pirated that of a 1950s New York City apartment: roses papered the walls'(PKP, 86). Such details lend the text a thread of continuity which runs thematically if not in terms of narrative flow, by illustrating a further way in which 'piracy,' 'plagiarism,' 'pastiche' and 'theft' are all closely connected. The suggestion that a style of décor can be 'pirated' reinforces the idea that a style of art or writing can similarly be mimicked. Moreover, by describing a room which is a facsimile of a room from another period, the text reminds us that we should not trust what we see; that surfaces can b deceptive, and that history can be recreated and thus altered.
Further on, Acker returns to dialogue in the script format to further expose the artifice of character:
Now I'm going to interview myself.
Questioner: Did the ointment smell of her?
Questioner: How can you best describe the odor?
Me: Like a witch who's just died. (PKP 148)
In creating a situation in which Ostracism interviews herself, Acker is projecting through her character the interrogation process a writer undertakes when deciding how to render the sights, sounds and smells within a given scene. This achieves a dual result; in the first instance, it reveals character and dialogue to be as much a fictive construct as plot or sequential, linear narrative, while in the second, it also further demystifies the creative process, the way in which a writer does 'choose, edit and rearrange the words at his disposal.'110 In this way, Acker uses the medium of writing against itself, employing a range of techniques to destabilise the 'author' figure and to promote reading as an activity which requires participation instead of passive observation. (more on the cut-ups as requiring the reader to make their own connections here?)
Just as Burroughs approached his creation of 'a new mythology for the space age' by rewriting the past, so Acker too presents her 'posthuman' society through a narrative with a historical context.111 By this, I mean that Acker employs genre trappings and conventional narrative styles as a means of creating a new 'myth' born out of the old:
"Here are the girls I told you about. The ones for whom you and what's-her-name have been looking. They even have a captain named Pussy."
I must have been looking a bit disapproving 'cause then she said that, though the girls look like alcoholics, I had to learn that when it comes to the sea, appearances are deceptive. Actually they were the toughest old salts she had ever met. They even had an available ship whose name was Mary and they had rigged it as well as any vessel, even in the past, has been prepared for the roughest and most treacherous seas. (PKP, 218)
Here we see Acker's use of more developed narrative, which could actually be considered 'conventional.' Again, genre trappings and phrases which are traditionally associated with such tales are present: 'old salts,' 'roughest and most treacherous seas' border on cliché, but serve the purpose of placing 'the old' in a new context, revising the past in preparation for the future, and the creation of the new myth. Moreover, the phraseology is derived heavily from Treasure Island, and, characters such as Silver are lifted directly- and then altered slightly - from the source text.112 Other examples of 'plagiarism' include the shanty which recurs throughout Treasure Island. White Treasure Island features the refrain 'fifteen men on the dead man's chest - Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!' (1, 4, 6, 60, 144, 206) the verse appears in Pussy as 'Two girls lost on a dead man's chest... and all that's old has turned to scum' (PKP 220).113 The 'musical' refrains in Pussy not only draw on and alter the 'songs' which appear in Treasure Island, but also serve to render explicit the analogy between the composite text and musical composition that Burroughs had previously observed as a facet of the cut-ups. The musical comparison was one Acker also saw as relevant to her version of the cutting up:
What's fun is when you start playing with a text, it's just like jazz riffs, you go back and forth and down and around... I was talking with a friend about appropriation in music, all these scratched records... I think it's great!114
In this context, the plagiarised sections in Acker's texts are analogous to longer samples - equivalent to a chord sequence - whereas the original syntactic cut-ups can be seen as shorter samples - equivalent to a few notes or a drum sound. If the initial purpose of the cut-up technique had been to bring writing more into step with developments in painting, then Acker's development of the method can in part be seen as an attempt to keep writing abreast of contemporary culture. It was because of her desire to update and recontextualise existing texts in a modern framework that the idea of a 'new' myth became so important to her. In her attempt to create the new myth, Acker makes some dramatic revisions to the past. For example, Burroughs' pirates, with the exception of the Fuentes (Iguana) Twins, are all essentially 'classic' historical characters: Acker's pirates, on the other hand, are all distinctly unlike any classic or historical characters: part-human, part animal, desocialised mutants who live like wild dogs:
A few days later, I saw bad Dog chewing on a rat. I thought, it must be dinnertime. At the same time, because mutt-girl was no longer available to clean our deck, a three-foot-long rat stepped over my foot... my vision of Bad Dog munching on a rat, for unknown reasons, had made me hungry. (PKP, 224)
Bad Dog would appear to be a corruption of Black Dog from Treasure Island and elsewhere we see the pirates involved in animalistic, frenzied orgies reminiscent of the homoerotic scenes which proliferate in The Wild Boys. If Burroughs and many popular science fiction writers depict the future as post-evolution, then the landscape of Pussy stands out as presenting a form of regression. And yet it remains a utopia of sorts, in that Pussy shows a society- however broken down - in which the outlaws, the misfits, the pirates, are able not only to survive, but to unite and thrive. Indeed, the society Acker portrays in Pussy can be located within the realm of what Kumar terms 'feminist utopias.'115 'It was perhaps inevitable that women should take to utopia,' he writes, continuing, 'where else would they be free and equal? No known society in history has allowed them material or symbolic equality with men.'116 Given Acker's feminist credentials, it should be of no surprise that she should use her novel, set in the traditionally male domain of pirates and within a retelling of what is traditionally considered a 'boys book' in the form of Treasure Island, as a vehicle by which to portray an alternative future whereby female outsiders are central characters. By developing this alternative history / future by means of documents, diaries and multiple narrators, the way in which Acker contributes to the evolution of the cut-up technique becomes clear. Combining a variation of the syntactic cut-up in its irregular punctuation, the narrative cut-up created by the frequent and discontinuous narrative switches, the fragmentation of the larger narrative segments through the inclusion of maps, script-format dialogue, diagrams and 'manuscripts,' Pussy, King of the Pirates draws together all aspect of the cut-up previously employed by Burroughs over the span of his entire career, as well as used by Acker across her previous works, within a single text.
Acker's work, in its concerted attempts to defy convention, betrays a defiance of genre definition. Coming 'out of MTV,' her discontinuous narratives both reflect and draw upon contemporary mainstream culture, culture beyond literature, and for this reason her work commonly finds itself in the 'postmodern' category. But while the common perception of postmodern fiction is that of a celebration of depthlessness and superficiality, in Acker's hands these methods of fragmentation - both of narrative and of character, and in which linear continuity is eschewed in favour of rapid 'channel-hopping' edits - become a mans of grappling with the deeply personal. In this way, her modes of writing are symbolic of her struggle to channel the words at her disposal into forms which have real meaning for her as a writer and serve to accurately reflect her life experience and perception of the world. Rather than hiding a lack of sincerity behind a veneer of structural and presentational 'special effects,' Acker embraced these techniques and used them as vehicle not for self-expression so much as self-exploration. On one level, this focus in the self, the author, would appear to contradict the idea that the cut-up approach - applied at whatever level - is primarily a device for removing the author from the creative process. But to subscribe to such a line of thought would be to overlook the way in which Burroughs, as the technique's leading innovator, had drawn on, and then cut up, his own biography in order to write a new, mythologised author / narrator figure, cutting he past not to reveal, but to rewrite the future.
Acker saw that 'the academy' and publishers of fiction remained fundamentally conservative in their approach. Although she was certain that the reading populace would be able to accept and accommodate her rather radical work, there remained an obstacle between her work and the world in that publishers needed to be convinced of the marketability of such writing.
What they want a novel to do is to teach you how to think and act properly according to the dictates of your class and money and all that. This is very clear in England. So you learn this is a novel of manners: This is the right way to talk, this is the right way to show your emotions, this is the right way to conduct yourself, this is the right way to deal with things such as sexuality, this is the right way to act to those who have more or less money than you. I think that they get very angry at novels that don't teach that.117
Clearly, Acker's novels teach none of these things, but instead represent an alternative to all of them. Acker 's work exists in diametric opposition to the accepted norms of social structures and the dictates of class. In doing so, she was once again aligning herself with the tradition of literary outcasts, those writers who existed on the fringes of literary acceptance for whom success was achieved on their own terms, without compromise and without adapting to meet the expectations of the mass market.
Similarly, her plagiarism from a notably broad range of sources, while generating an intertextuality which is integral to her work in a manner which is in keeping with prevailing postmodern modes, represents anything but a celebration of the death of originality. Like Burroughs, Acker saw existing texts simply as building blocks for new texts. By inverting the gender aspect of Don Quixote, a whole 'new' and 'original' text is created. Of course, there is a counterpoint regarding the originality of the 'original' text, the 'original' Don Quixote which needs noting here. If, as Burroughs, and subsequently Acker, argued, there are no 'original' words and that a writer merely edits and assembles using available materials, then Don Quixote itself cannot be considered an 'original' text. Consequently, to rewrite and revise Don Quixote - or Great Expectations, Treasure Island, The Story of O or large sections of Genet's output - would not be to produce an 'original' text, but simply a 'new' text.118 Acker contended that her appropriation represented a type of 'liberation' of the words, and that such practices reflected her self-professed 'post-modernist position.'119
The key issue here is not the relation between Acker's texts and the texts from which she so heavily and openly plagiarised, but the inspiration for her plagiarism. It is clearly apparent that Acker's wide-scale borrowing from existing sources represents a following of the directions for writing laid out within the bodies of Burroughs' fictive texts and in The Third Mind. Knowing as we do the extent to which Acker felt herself inspired by and indebted to Burroughs and his work, this in itself requires little further qualification. I would argue that this mode of assimilation does not sit within the 'anxiety' framework put forward by Bloom. Yet nor is it simply an example of postmodern sampling or pastiche, despite her tendency to 'copy it out' and despite her claims that she 'never did find' her own authorial voice.120 Acker's writing represents a body of work that draws extensively on the techniques devised by Burroughs, and from this starting point demonstrates substantial development of the of the cut-up methodology, making a significant contribution to the ever-changing signs and meanings which lie at the heart of the cut-up.
1 One leading example of this citation is the essay 'William Burroughs's Realism,' written in 1990 and contained in Bodies of Work: Essays. Serpent's Tail, London, 1997. The essay 'A Few Notes on Two of My Books' is another example, as Acker speaks more of Burroughs and his influence than her own books. Published in Review of Contemporary Fiction, vol. 9, no. 3., Fall 1989
2 'Don't Be Afraid to Copy it Out.' Peter Woollen, London Review of Books, Vol. 20, No. 3, February 1998
3 'Devoured by Myths: interview by Sylvère Lotringer.' Hannibal Lecter, My Father. New York: Semiotext(e) 1991, p. 4.
4 Some sources state that Acker was born in 1944, although the majority give her year of birth as 1948, which is the date given in the publication details of her books. However, the Mark/Space biography of available at http://www.euro.net/mark-space/bioKathyAcker.html (accessed 30 January 2004) gives a third alternative of 1945.
5 Andrew Calcutt & Richard Shephard, Cult Fiction. Prion Books, London, 1998, p. 1
6 Karl Schmieder interview with Kathy Acker, Ilato.org: July 25, 1991, Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado.
8 Peter Woollen. 'Kathy Acker.' Lust for Life. London and New York: Verso, 2006, p. 11.
9 Avital Ronell. 'Kathy Goes to Hell.' Lust for Life, p. 15.
10 Peter Woollen. 'Kathy Acker.' Lust for Life, p. 5. Stewart Home defines mail art as the practice whereby art or writing 'rather than being sold as a commodity it is usually mailed to friends and acquaintances.' Stewart Hiome. The Assault on Culture: Utopian Currents from Lettrisme to Class War. London: Aporia Books & Unpopular Press, 1988, p. 69.
11 Karl Schmieder interview with Kathy Acker. See also Hannibal Lecter, My Father, in which Acker discusses her early biography in detail.
12 'Devoured by Myths: interview by Sylvère Lotringer.' Hannibal Lecter, My Father, p. 2. Rip-Off Red and The Burning Bombing of America were published posthumously in a single volume. New York: Grove Press, 2002.
13 Ibid., p. 8.
14 Ibid., p. 13. Burroughs. It Belongs to the Cucumbers.' The Adding Machine: Selected Essays, p. 52.
15 Peter Woollen. 'Kathy Acker.' Lust for Life, p. 4.
16 This book was published under the name of Black Tarantula. This use of the pseudonym, which is the same name as that of the eponymous central character of the book further illustrates Calcutt and Shephard's observation regarding the creation and destruction of identity, something Acker would pursue throughout her career. The Childlike Life of Black Tarantula by the Black Tarantula was reprinted in the Acker anthology Portrait of an Eye - Three Novels, which collects this volume along with I Dreamt I Was a Nymphomaniac: Imagining and The Adult Life of Henri Toulouse Lautrec by Henri Toulouse Lautrec. New York: Grove Press, 1998.
17 Written when Acker was 21, Politics remained unpublished until 1991 when it was published by Semiotext(e) imprint. Excerpts of the book are also contained in Euridice in the Underworld and Essential Acker.
18 'Devoured by Myths: interview by Sylvère Lotringer.' Hannibal Lecter, My Father, p. 8.
19 from Politics. Essential Acker, New York: Grove Press, 2002, p. 2
20 'Devoured by Myths: interview by Sylvère Lotringer.' Hannibal Lecter, My Father, p. 5.
21 Ellen G Friedman, 'A Conversation with Kathy Acker.' The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Fall 1989, Volume 9.3.
23 The Burning Bombing of America. Rip-Off Red and The Burning Bombing of America. New York: Grove Press 2002, p. 165.
24 The Burning Bombing of America. Rip-Off Red and The Burning Bombing of America, pp. 180-182.
25 'Devoured by Myths: interview by Sylvère Lotringer.' Hannibal Lecter, My Father, p. 12.
26 Ibid., p. 12. Peter Woollen. 'Kathy Acker.' Lust for Life, p. 4.
27 'Devoured by Myths: interview by Sylvère Lotringer.' Hannibal Lecter, My Father, p. 13.
28 'Writing, Identity, and Copyright in the New Age.' Bodies of Work, p. 100.
29 Ibid., pp. 100-101.
30 'In Memoriam to Kathy Acker: A Deleuze and Guattarian Approach by Robert Lort. First published
in Paroxysm (date unknown), reproduced at http://www.jahsonic.com/KathyAcker.html [22 November 2003].
31 Avital Ronell. 'Kathy Goes to Hell.' Lust for Life, p. 23.
32 'Devoured by Myths: interview by Sylvère Lotringer.' Hannibal Lecter, My Father, pp. 15-16.
33 Eric Mottram. 'Rencontre avec William Burroughs.' Conversations with William Burroughs p. 15.
34 'Writing, Identity and Copyright in the Net Age.' Bodies of Work, p. 98.
35 'A Few Notes on Two of My Books.' Bodies of Work, p. 6.
36 'Devoured by Myths: interview by Sylvère Lotringer.' Hannibal Lecter, My Father, p. 7.
37 Peter Woollen. 'Kathy Acker.' Lust for Life, p. 4.
38 The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula by The Black Tarantula. Portrait of an Eye: Three Novels. New York: grove Press, 1998, p. 3.
39 The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula by The Black Tarantula. Portrait of an Eye, p. 11.
40 Ibid., p. 21.
41 Ibid., p. 40.
42 'Devoured by Myths: interview by Sylvère Lotringer.' Hannibal Lecter, My Father, p. 7.
43 Ibid., p. 7.
44 London. Pan Books, 1984, hereafter cited in the text as B&G
45 Cult Fiction: A Reader's Guide, p. 2
46 Karl Schmieder interview with Kathy Acker
47 Niall Lucy. 'Introduction: (On the Way to Genre). Postmodern Literary Theory, p. 33.
48 Originally published 1965 in a limited edition of 1,000 copies by Aloes, London, republished without illustrations and photographs in The Burroughs File, San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1984.
49 'Devoured by Myths: interview by Sylvère Lotringer.' Hannibal Lecter, My Father, p. 15.
50 Report by The Federal Inspection Office for Publications Harmful to Minors, Germany, 18 September 1998, reproduced in translation in Euridyce In The Underworld, pp. 144-150
51 Euridyce In The Underworld p. 146.
52 Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guiattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Althone Press, 1984, p. 23.
53 Robert Lort. 'In Memoriam To Kathy Acker: A Deleuze and Guattarian Approach.'
54 Jonah Peretti. 'Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation / Dissolution.' Available at http://www.datawranglers.com/negations/issues/96w_peretti.html accessed 6 January, 2004
55 'Devoured by Myths: interview by Sylvère Lotringer.' Hannibal Lecter, My Father, p. 10.
56 Karl Schmieder interview with Kathy Acker, Ilato.org: July 25, 1991, Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado
57 R. U. Sirius. 'io' magazine, reproduced at http://www.altx.com/io/acker.html accessed 1 May, 2003. This approach to writing shares common ground with Kerouac's 'first thought, best thought' dictate, as well as Burroughs' belief that his writing was a type of purging himself for the accidental shooting of his wife, Joan Vollmer.
58 In conversation with Sylvère Lotringer, Acker recalls how she ran into trouble for the use of a four - page section of The Pirate (1975) by Harold Robbins within The Adult Life of Toulouse LautrecHannibal Lecter, My Father, pp. 11-15.
59 'William Burroughs's Realism.' Bodies of Work, p. 1.
60 This theme is discussed in detail in the essays contained within Bodies of Work.
61 The Birth of the Poet, first performed in New York City on 3rd December 1975 is contained in full in Hannibal Lecter, My Father, pp. 75-103, and also in Eurydice in the Underworld, pp. 77-105. Act Three, 'Ali Goes to the Mosque' contains large amounts of Arabic script, and was published separately as 'Ali and the Mosque' in RE/Search (no issue number or date) in 1981, pp. 20-21.
63 Burroughs. 'My Purpose is to Write for the Space Age,' The New York Times, 19 February 1984, pp. 9-10.
64 Karl Schmieder interview with Kathy Acker, Ilato.org.
65 'The Fall of Art.' The Adding Machine, p. 61.
66 'In 1973 Erica Jong published Fear of Flying, the novel for which she is probably best known, and a novel that would take the public by storm for its explicit treatment of women's sexuality. The novel was greeted on publication with high praise from such prominent writers as John Updyke and Henry Miller.' From the official Erica Jong website, available at http://www.ericajong.com/abouterica2.htm [23 July 2007].
67 Lydenberg, Word Cultures, p. 123.
68 Ibid., p. 123.
69 Interview by R. U. Sirius, io magazine.
70 Andrea Juno. Angry Women, San Francisco: Re/Search Publications, 1991, p. 177.
71 New York: Bozeau of London Press, 1980.
72 Bodies of Work, p. 18.
73 Iain Finlayson. Tangier: City of the Dream. London: Flamingo, 1993, p. 4.
74 Ibid., p. 331.
75 Burroughs provided the foreword to the 1974 book by Mohamed Choukri, Jean Genet in Tangier. New York: Ecco, 1974. The translation of this text into English was done by Paul Bowles.
76 'Devoured by Myths: interview by Sylvère Lotringer.' Hannibal Lecter, My Father, p. 10.
77 As Burroughs recounts, 'Someone asked Jean Genet when he started to write, and he answered "at birth." A writer writes about his whole experience, which begins at birth. The process begins long before the writer puts pencil or typewriter to paper.' Victor Bockris. With William Burroughs: A Report from the Bunker. Revised edition. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1996, p. 1.
78 Karl Schmieder interview with Kathy Acker, Ilato.org.
79 Karl Schmieder interview with Kathy Acker, Ilato.org.
80 Kathleen Wheeler. 'Reading Kathy Acker,' Context no. 9, 1991.
81 'The Fall of Art.' The Adding Machine, p. 61.
82 Deleuze and Guiatarri. Anti-Oedipus, p. 35.
83 'Postmodernism.' Bodies of Work, p. 4.
84 Ibid., p. 5.
85 Dani Cavallaro. Cyberpunk and Cyberculture. London and New Brunswick, NJ: The Athlone Press, 2000, p. xi.
86 Dani Cavallaro. Cyberpunk and Cyberculture, p. 10.
88 Originally published in French as Histoire d'O by Ann Desclos, under the pseudonym Pauline Réage.
89 Internet, 18 May 1996, quoted by Henry W.Targowski at Mark/Space Interplanetary Review, available at http://www.euro.net/mark-space/bkPussyKingOfThePirates.html accessed 30 January 2004.
90 Sanjida O'Connell. The Guardian, Thursday 20 June 1996.
91 Francis Fukuyama: 'Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died.' The Guardian, Monday May 13 2002.
93 Bodies of Work, p. 6.
94 Writers such as Jean Rhys and Angela Carter are obvious examples of feminist writers who have 'updated' fairytales, classics and myths in a contemporary, feminized way. Carter's The Bloody Chamber is actually a feminist retelling of Bluebeard.
95 Bodies of Work, p. 6.
96 Edinburgh: AK Press, 1995.
97 'Devoured by Myths: interview by Sylvère Lotringer.' Hannibal Lecter, My Father, p. 8.
99 interview by R. U. Sirius.
101 Karl Schmieder interview with Kathy Acker, Ilato.org.
102 Timothy Murphy. Wising Up The Marks, p. 40-41.
103 Bodies of Work, p. 3 Burroughs had previously written, 'Recent studies of dream and sleep have yielded a wealth of date that was not available in Freud's day. Perhaps the most important discovery is the fact the dreams are a biological necessity. Deprived of REM sleep, experimental subjects show all symptoms of sleeplessness, no latter how much dreamless sleep they are allowed. They become irritable and restless and experience hallucinations. No doubt prolonged deprivation would result in death.' 'On Freud and the Unconscious,' The Adding Machine, p. 95.
104 Ellen G Friedman, 'A Conversation with Kathy Acker.'
107 'Devoured by Myths: interview by Sylvère Lotringer.' Hannibal Lecter, My Father, p. 13.
108 London: Quarterstick Records QS36, 1996. Formed in Leeds in 1977, the Mekons are renowned equally for their overtly political nature and their musical eclecticism. During their 25-plus year career have released over a dozen albums. In Rock: The Rough Guide (2nd Edition), (London, Rough Guides Limited, 1999, p. 633) Huw Bucknell (accurately) describes Pussy, King of the Pirates as 'a startlingly off-kilter album backing the spoken word narration of postfeminist American writer Kathy Acker.'
109 Brad Tyer, 'Pussy Galore.'
110 Kathy Acker is named as 'The-More-than-Able Seaman Acker,' while musicians on the record include 'Midshipman Roche,' 'Captain Morgan of Gwent,' 'Pricey Pugwash,' 'Tom the Cabin Boy' and 'Seaman Stains.' - taken from the sleeve notes of the album.
111 Eric Mottram. 'Rencontre avec William Burroughs.' Conversations with William Burroughs. p. 15.
112 See Burroughs, 'My Purpose is to Write for the Space Age.' The New York Times, 19 February 1984, pp. 9-10.
114 Robert Louis Stevenson. Treasure Island. London: Penguin (Popular Classics series), 1994.
115 'Devoured by Myths: interview by Sylvère Lotringer.' Hannibal Lecter, My Father, p. 13.
116 Kumar. Utopianism, p. 102.
117 Ibid., p. 102.
118 Karl Schmieder interview with Kathy Acker, Ilato.org.
119 William Burroughs. 'Cut-Up Method,' quoted by Murphy, Wising Up the Marks, p. 105.
120 Karl Schmieder interview with Kathy Acker, Ilato.org.
121 'I found my voice was a reaction to all that stuff... I've been told by some of the writers in the generation above me: You'll be able to write when you've found a voice. And I couldn't find one - and I kinda didn't want one. So I just invented ways to write without having a voice then everyone said: Oh! It's really clear what your voice is!' Marita Avila and Cheryl Meier. 'Consorting with Hecate,' available at http://members.aol.com/MeierAvil/acker.html accessed 5 January 2003.
Copyright © 2007 Edward Robinson. All rights reserved