Read In Memoriam to Identity by Kathy Acker Free Online
Book Title: In Memoriam to Identity|
The author of the book: Kathy Acker
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 775 KB
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Reader ratings: 7.4
Edition: Grove Press
Date of issue: February 20th 2018
ISBN 13: 9780802111708
Read full description of the books:
It's impossible to know a person who's always fantasizing about you and about whom you're obsessing.
Which is really to say: good luck knowing anyone, let alone yourself, except in some kind of unsatisfying dialectical self/other relationship—especially because the most rampant fantasy is that of the self, or the obsession of knowing another. So, the question here is an old one: What/who is the self? Who are we actually? What is love's purpose? Yeah, it sounds trite, but I guarantee there is no precedent for how this book is trying to talk about these questions.
A BRIEF LINEAR SYNOPSIS OF PLOT FOR THE PURPOSE OF CLARITY...
This question is dramatized through the repurposed biography/poetry of Rimbaud (or R) and his attempt to define himself through his love and boredom with (i.e., opposition to) society. If you didn't already know, he failed—abandoned poetry at 18, abandoned his oft-spurning lover, and abandoned himself to being a gun-runner and slavetrader in then-Abyssinia where years later he died, having never returned to poetry.
We then take up with Airplane, a girl bored by the Connecticut suburbs, her judgmental judicial father (mostly referred to as The Judge), who gets caught up with the first person that makes unwanted moves on her (who is also a reincarnated Rimbaud), ends up working a live sexshow, breaks up with R, and eventually lands in NYC as a writer of some kind involved with a German journalist Dom.
Alternated throughout the Airplane narrative is the repurposed narrative from Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury concerning the oft-mentioned and never heard-from Caddy, in this book almost exclusively referred to as Capitol. Important to note, this entire section is from her perspective, which lacks from Faulkner's. The narrative for her is much the same, just her side of it (oh and R is again reincarnated, here as Jason Compson), and when she runs away she too ends up in New York, trying to construct a self through making art out of disemboweled dolls, having failed (like R and Airplane) to make any kind of meaningful identity out of the people who she continually fucks. This artform finally gives her to herself: "because working... was her and her had never before been."
AND BUT SO
What we have is a reconstructed text on the always reconstructing concept of the self and identity. The last sentence of the book (spoiler [not like that ever matters with anything Acker writes]):
"Note: all the preceding has been taken from the poems of Arthur Rimbaud, the novels of William Faulkner, and biographical texts on Arthur Rimbaud and William Faulkner." This, of course, should be read in the same way as Deleuze and Guattari's "everywhere it is machines—real ones, not figurative ones"—which is to say, it is really both figurative and literal at the same time. Perhaps this would have been more helpful in the beginning, but that's the point, isn't it?
It is a very disorienting beginning, and the first section on Rimbaud that lasts about 100 pages will make you lose interest—power through. It reads better the second time after having finished the other two sections once the sparse discursive drops of insight have made you understand just what it is Acker is trying to get at. The Rimbaud section lays the basis for the failed attempts at establishing a self through relationship with another that will be seen again and again elsewhere.
Somewhere in the Capitol section, we are given: "We're not nothing. We're our stories." followed some forty pages later with the aside:"(Perhaps there are only stories and perhaps there aren't.)" There is quite a good deal of having it both ways here—quite a resistance to the stability of the text to even be comprehended. Everything is always broken apart to be reassembled whether it be the texts of R/Faulkner, or the characters' conceptions of their own selves—are they merely their memories? the people they fuck? merely the stinking meat of the physical which is the constant though alienated medium of access to the outside world from which they continually flee? simply ideological constructions in a novel used to make a point? It's really whatever you want as the reader given your own level of cynicism and/or patience for these kinds of textual and self-conscious post-modern efforts on the part of Acker. If it sounds like a drag from this review, turn back—this is not the book for you.
Surprisingly, the intertwined sections on Airplane and Capitol make for (dare I say) compelling character development, moreso than I have seen elsewhere in Acker, which is not to say they are "round characters," but neither are they flat. They inhabit the contradictory space of the self in their timeline in the novel (adolescence thru adulthood) that feels real, even tender. They do what they do because they do, and along the way they try to understand why. In some ways, even though they are cut-up stand-ins for the exploration of the theme of the self, they feel less deterministically bound than many more "round" characters from less self-conscious literature (ahem, Stephen Daedalus). Perhaps it is their instability that makes them relate, or their desire to know through the chaos of not.
Capitol, toward the end, changes her artistic methods. Instead of merely making the dolls cut open with guts hanging out, displaying fake interiority to what is obviously hollow, she now "smashed up dolls and remade the pieces, as one must remake oneself, into the most hideous abstract nonunderstandable conglomerations possible and certain people saw as beautiful." And here we have it—Acker's aesthetic in a nutshell. The move from the modern to the post-, and the conception of identity as elusive and everpresent—always somewhere hovering between memories and the stinking flesh.
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Read information about the authorBorn of German-Jewish stock, Kathy Acker was brought up by her mother and stepfather (her natural father left her mother before Kathy was born) in a prosperous district of NY. At 18, she left home and worked as a stripper. Her involvement in the sex industry helped to make her a hit on the NY art scene, and she was photographed by the newly fashionable Robert Mapplethorpe. Preferring to be known simply as 'Acker' (the name she took from her first husband Robert, and which she continued to use even after a short-lived second marriage to composer Peter Gordon), she moved to London in the mid-eighties and stayed in Britain for five years.
Acker's writing is as difficult to classify into any particular genre as she herself was. She writes fluidly, operating in the borderlands and junkyards of human experience. Her work is experimental, playful, and provocative, engagingly alienating, narratively non sequitur.
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