Kathy Acker

Kathy Acker (1947-1997) – photograph by Allen Ginsberg. Copyright – Allen Ginsberg Estate – caption – “Kathy Acker in Green Room, Detroit Institute of the Arts, one night February 1985 we read together with Diane Di Prima – she writes violent sexual feminist narratives, parody of imaginative love-torture novels, lives in London, first published chapters of books as pamphlets I found in the mail from Lower East Side New York”

25 years since the death of Kathy Acker and a new biography has just come out, Jason McBride‘s Eat Your Mind – The Radical Life and Work of Kathy Acker.

Dwight Garner reviews it for the New York Times.

Garner also makes note of an earlier biography, Chris KrausAfter Kathy Acker 

“Kraus is a powerfully original writer, and her book is quirkier. She knew Acker for good or ill and there is a jousting sense of rivalry. McBride is more dispassionate.”

“Quirky?” “a jousting sense of rivalry”? – Kraus’ book was subjected to some withering reviews, notably David Velasco in Bookforum, Joe Livingston in The New Republic, and  Rachel Cooke in The Guardian, (Anna Joanes in the LA Review of Books was more supportive on what, it should be said, was not a conventional biography – “Myths and biographies are art made of lives. Like Acker, Chris Kraus has made big art from a big life”)

Jessica Ferri in the LA Times gives an enthusiastic review of McBride’s book –  “Kathy Acker, late punk empress of radical lit, gets a fitting biography

More reviews:

“Critic McBride investigates novelist Kathy Acker’s fiery personality and artistic inspiration in this comprehensive biography…[H]e manages to bring together her diaries, novels, poems, plays, and letters with reminiscences from her friends, lovers, and collaborators for a full portrait of her life…The result is an excellent addition to American literary history.” – (starred review in Publishers Weekly)

“Journalist McBride makes his book debut with a perceptive, thoroughly researched biography of the experimental writer Kathy Acker…Informed by Acker’s published works, private papers, and many interviews, McBride presents a persuasive case for her enduring significance as ‘an icon of unorthodoxy.’ A brisk, engaging literary biography.” – (Kirkus Review)

“Kathy Acker was a brilliant bundle of fascinating contradictions, and one of the brightest stars in a period when New York was the world center of creativity. Jason McBride has written a sympathetic, studious biography. He deserves every award for the depth of his research and the verve of his writing.” – Edmund White

“At times hilarious, at other times a tear-jerker, Eat Your Mind elucidates Kathy Acker’s complex genius in all its outrageous, tender, brutal glory. Jason McBride has written a page-turner worthy of hyperbole. A tour de force!” – Dodie Bellamy

“A great and timely biography of Kathy Acker. Unafraid to celebrate the complex intellectual histories that form both outer skin and inner guts of Acker’s work, her interweaving of ideology and aesthetics, her passionate conviction that the avant-garde was something to be lived as much as written, McBride has produced a study genuinely faithful to his brilliant, difficult subject.” – Tom McCarthy

We remember Kathy.   Here’s our posting on her back in 2013

and here’s Kathy interviewing William Burroughs (two great transgressive post-modernists) (recorded in the October Gallery in London in 1989)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *