The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

On and for Chris Kraus, After Kathy Acker, Semiotext(e), 2017

(or any other less monopolistic site)

1. I've just finished reading After Kathy Acker; consider this a
review by a problematic and early participant in Kathy's Life. I
knew her for the short time before and after we made the Blue
Tape (and another tape, now lost); we continued to speak on the
3am 4am phone after that, when everyone else seemed asleep, a
world of intensity and energy without the noise and too bright
lights. At least at that point. I'm hazy on the dates here.

1a. New York was energy.

2. After Kathy Acker tunnels through one of the most complex
lives you might encounter; it's thick with reminiscence as well
as selections from her notebooks, letters, novels, essays,
remembered conversations. What strikes me most is how "true" the
book is, (if one can say that); I have a deconstructive turn,
but the narrative and description brings so much to mind,
foregrounds so much that I lived through in other contexts
(Acconci for example) that I find myself literally overwhelmed,
returned to the 1970s downtown that I knew. The Blue Tape hadn't
been shown in years; Tony Conrad transferred it to digital (I
never received the original back); and now that haunts me as
well by way of Kraus' text - the grit or dirt for example that
Anna Maria Pinaka speaks of is re/presented (and without
accompanying photographs of Kathy, everything swirls through and
around the text.)

2a. (I almost didn't make it through that period by the way.)

3. The book is analogic, in spite of Kathy's later use of
digital media; what occurred happened in a real time of phone
calls, mail, personal encounters, at best an answering machine.
But - and this is really important, I think - it's all about
networking, interconnections, coagulations, dissipations,
strange attractors (in both senses of the phrase); it's hardly
modernism with modernism's clean and proper body, modernism's
white room - instead there's a sense of abrasion, dust, sex,
dirtiness, tenderness through it - and above all a sense of an
obdurate Kathy, someone unconfined (except by herself), someone
moving through spaces (I think of WAN, wide-area-networking) -

3a. It's as if things _spread,_ presaging the digital, an
electric-electronic writing born around the time of the Net,
taking a different route.

4. And it's this that makes the book essential now - an account
opening up a literature that problematizes theorizing,
problematizes the body, style, the sentence, the ground, subtext
or superstructure. It's necessary that categories, walls, come
down now - that we might discover there are other paths through
sememes already inundated by corporate hubris - other paths in
fact which, through the somatic, bypass those sememes
altogether. The result might be writing which falters, which
teeters on the brink of failure, which infinitely expands, feels
trivial, feels like the most important writing in the world. And
Chris Kraus details all of this absolutely brilliantly; the book
- and just as importantly, Kathy's writings - all this should be
on our shelves, now, in the midst of incipient tyranny and the
desecration of what used to be thought of as American democracy.
Kathy's work isn't outdated; if anything, it's revolutionary and
timely, as is After Kathy Acker; check them out.

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