Monday, 14 January 2008

Abandoned book: Blood and Guts in High School by Kathy Acker

I am reading 50 cult books this year and this would have been the third but its on the to be swapped pile now!

This is a book first published in 1978 and is an experimental novel. To put it context imagine an 18th century painting of a landowner and his family under a tree. At first glance this is natural but it’s a construct from both the style of the sitting to the painting techniques used to artificially create naturalism. If you deconstruct this then you draw on a range of counter images or techniques. Say having the landowner be a woman and the landscape constructed from dead bodies reflecting the true nature of the power illustrated.

This book is based on post modernist assumptions of deconstructing narrative or form etc to expose the oppressive nature of being a woman defined by men or being in a system then robs individuality- libertarian feminism as it were. One of the approaches that Kathy Acker takes is to take a brutal pornographic view of men and have the women adopt the same view to expose how a feminine romantic view of sex is part of the oppressive suppression of female sexuality.

The book does not follow the rules of dramatic narrative but is a montage of pastiches, poems, play scenes, pornographic drawings, dreamscapes that are not about telling a story but creating images and feelings that deconstruct the social view of say education, the state, religion etc. The opening few pages are written as a play dialogue with inner monologues between a 10 year old girl and a father who has sex with her. But from the context its not a 10 year old girl(the language and the content is of an older woman) so one reading is that this is a inner monologue along the lines of Transactional Analysis of stern parent and child which reflects how women are infantilised by men.

So why abandon the book? Two reasons, the first is its relentless politics. It’s a book best read by young students who have the advantage of seeing the world in black and white: all men are bastards; your parents *** you up; police are pigs; education is fascism etc. The second is the format whilst containing many powerful nuggets tends to drag and not engage me as it is essentially a series of diverse pieces of writing and drawings thrown together it feels at random. Life is too short…which was first put into print in May 1877, The Morning Oregonian included a story with this opinion:

"Oh I say, drawled Gerard; 'life's too short to be wasted talking about a woman. Let's go and get some beer."

Oh dear…

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