After Kathy Acker: A Biography
Rich girl, street punk, lost girl and icon ...scholar, stripper, victim and media-whore: The late Kathy Acker's legend and writings are wrapped in mythologies, created mostly by Acker herself. The media storm that surrounded Kathy Acker's books was unprecedented: her books were banned in several countries and condemned by the mainstream media, but eventually the controversy, and attention, faded away. Twenty years after her untimely death aged just 50, Acker's legend has faded, making her writing more legible. In this first, fully authorized biography, Kraus approaches Acker both as a writer, and as a member of the artistic communities from which she emerged. At once forensic and intimate, After Kathy Acker traces the extreme discipline and literary strategies Acker used to develop her work, and the contradictions she longed to embody. Using exhaustive archival research and ongoing conversations with mutual colleagues and friends, Kraus charts Acker's movement through some of the late twentieth century's most significant artistic enterprises.
This is a gossipy, anti-mythic artist biography which feels like it's being told in one long rush of a monologue over late-night drinks by someone who was there. As such, we learn as much much about Kathy Acker as we do about the mores of the artists and writers who surrounded her in the last three decades of the twentieth century. Acker emerges as an unlikely literary hero, but an utterly convincing one. -- Sheila Heti, author of How Should A Person Be The path of the female artist. Is hell.Chris Kraus's veracious and intricately structured portrait rouses and stirs as it documents in meticulous and fascinating detail the life, work and body of Kathy Acker and what it takes to a become a 'great writer as countercultural hero.' -- Viv Albertine 'To lie is to try,' Chris Kraus writes in this examination of the various personae of Kathy Acker, the fucked-up girl from high school who, through lying and trying, became an experimental writer of rare courage and vision. In some ways a contemporary and in some ways as far off as the days when people moved to New York and San Francisco for the cheap rent, Acker needed a key, and Chris Kraus provides it. -- Ben Moser Chris Kraus's After Acker sets the bar for what will surely be a new era of critical and biographical reckoning with the life and work of Kathy Acker. Kraus had a ringside seat, has done her homework, and here provides a substantive effort to pay homage not only to the complex, singular, raucous, and crucial writer and human that Acker was, but also to the constellation of artists, musicians, writers, and thinkers who were her friends, lovers, inspirations, and fellow makers of history. -- Maggie Nelson Hardly anyone writes better or more insightfully than Chris Kraus about the lives of women and artists. After Kathy Acker is an intense, riveting portrait of a writer who was raw and savvy, fragile and brilliant, whose self-deceptions were inseparable from her greatness. Quotes from her profane and passionate journals reveal Kathy the crazy poet, the bad girlfriend, the Upper East Side schoolgirl, the downtown writer, Kathy in love and in denial. Gossipy, sexy, tragic, terrific. -- Julie Phillips, author of The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon Kraus's latest book, After Kathy Acker, about the late experimental writer, is a departure in genre-it's Kraus's first biography-but it's still committed to her driving questions about art and community and risk, especially this one: How do you make fearless art from the messy stuff of consciousness? -- Leslie Jamison * Interview * Kraus, author of the cult 1997 novel I Love Dick, is the perfect mediator for Acker, finding in her work an aesthetics of provocation, discomfiture, risk and radical empathy. -- Lauren Elkin * Financial Times * Now that we have Chris's completely enthralling book, a new generation of writers will be inspired by Kathy. It's a gift to Kathy Acker and her legacy, and a gift to all the women who read Chris's books and shared her books and posted passages of her books on Tumblr and who made it possible for I Love Dick to exist as an Amazon series starring Kevin Bacon. Now that Chris has our attention, she's drawing us toward her muses. There's something quite beautiful about that. * Lenny Letter * It's impossible to overstate the monumentality of these minds side-by-side... Kraus combines biography and philosophy, exhibiting intimate familiarity with not only French critical theory - one of Acker's primary inspirations- but also the punk poet's vast "constellation of influences." Reading tarot, interpreting astrological signs, Kraus mimics the disjunction of Acker's identities by intercutting diary entries and excerpts from her correspondence, embracing fragmentation as a method for inquiry * Orlando Weekly * Kraus is a generous, admiring, but not uncritical narrator in this comprehensive biography of author Kathy Acker "a post-punk icon for the Bush/Thatcher years." * Publisher's Weekly *
Chris Kraus is the author of I Love Dick; Aliens and Anorexia; Torpor; Summer of Hate and two books of cultural criticism. She was a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow and teaches writing at European Graduate School.