Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Essential Acker

The Selected Writings of Kathy Acker

by Kathy Acker Edited by Amy Scholder Edited by Dennis Cooper Introduction by Jeanette Winterson

‘scarified sensibility, subversive intellect, and predatory wit make her a writer like no other I know.” –Tom LeClair, The New York Times Book Review

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 352
  • Publication Date October 21, 2002
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3921-4
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00

About The Book

Kathy Acker pushed literary boundaries with a vigor and creative fire that made her one of America’s preeminent experimental writers and her books cult classics. Now Amy Scholder and Dennis Cooper have distilled the incredible variety of Acker’s body of work into a single volume that reads like a communiqu” from the front lines of late-twentieth-century America. Acker was a literary pirate whose prodigious output drew promiscuously from popular culture, high literature, current events, and the raw material of her own life. Her vision questions everything we take for granted–the authority of parents, government, and the law; sexuality and the policing of desire–and puts in its place a universe of shameless, playful freakery. Spanning Acker’s career from her “70s punk interventions through more than a dozen major novels, Essential Acker is an indispensable overview of the work of this distinctive American writer and a reminder of her challenge to and influence on writers of the future.


‘scarified sensibility, subversive intellect, and predatory wit make her a writer like no other I know.” –Tom LeClair, The New York Times Book Review

“Brilliant. . . . As when reading Virginia Woolf, you may have to put the book down because you can’t stand so much beauty.” –Dodie Bellamy, San Francisco Chronicle

“[Acker’s] nightmarish scenes jump, skip and vibrate with anger, violence and orgasmic propulsion as she parodies the carefully formed narratives of the past to give us her take on the present age of anxiety; [She] shrewdly offers compelling narrative hooks . . . then veers off into surrealism, absurdist dialogues, direct addresses to the reader, and lumps of literary history. . . . Acker is her own one-woman dynamo.” –Harry Eugene Baldwin, Frontiers

“America’s most beloved transgressive novelist.” –Spin

“[Acker] had a way with the mechanics of the unconscious, she was a cutup in more than one sense, and she was obsessed with the liberating possibilities of intellect and passion.

” –Cindy Widner, The Austin Chronicle

“Kathy Acker’s trancelike writing style peels away the layers of reality. . . . Acker is an expert at evoking this shadowy realm of belief and emotion where the rules of cause and effect do not necessarily apply.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“These selections have been chosen splendidly and give a great sense of what her writing in general and her individual works in particular are like–not an easy task with writing that can be described as oceanic and non-linear.” –Pawel Frelik, Science Fiction Studies

“Everyone who writes about sex owes [Acker] a debt of gratitude. . . . She tracks consciousness as it moves through the phantasmagoria of daydream and the reality of the body as a first place.” –Bookforum

“The definitive compendium of Acker’s sexed-up word-bombs. . . . Always entertaining. . . . Acker sought to push boundaries–in her writing, life and performance art–and somehow ended up producing some truly fun and enjoyable writing.” –Kirkus Reviews


from “Politics”

(My first work, written when 21 years old)

the filthy bedcover on stage I’m allergic to this way of life mine? the last time I got on stage for the first ten minutes I felt I wasn’t me I was going through mechanical personality changes and actions I got scared I might flip in front of the sex-crazy lunatics finally got into the Santa Claus routine I was a little girl all excited because Santa Claus was going to bring me Christmas presents I couldn’t go to sleep I was waiting and waiting and then and then you know what happened doctor Santa Claus came right into my room I’m taking my clothes my shoes off rubbing my breasts Lenny dreamt last night about fucking Cyrelle she was lecturing him on how to fuck a woman he told her that he didn’t need the lecture she thought he was wrong he was sucking an older woman’s cunt it was also a cock without changing from a cunt this is a romantic section a very romantic life ha ha I was writing in the projection room the shits said they’d clean and wax the floor it’s still piss black can’t see no roaches no more it’s hotter than usual the projectionist was constantly bugging me some guy they say drunk hit Josie on her ass during her show yesterday his hat the cashier says he came up told him you’re not allowed to bring liquor up here then the cashier an Indian guy turns to Washington an old black janitor tells him that he’s not to come again on the weekends he has no mind he can’t remember anything he’s not to ask to get paid again he gets $1.00 he’s too old he won’t be able to work much longer he’s sick he’s senile he’s looking at me red blearing eyes we’re at the Embers cruddy food at least no one’s taking off his clothes they all want to SCREW this week (we find in the projection room) is about orgies mentions every place but ours only the fuzz know about 113 swingers SCREW says are very jealous about their mates? you can’t get involved with a girl you fuck at an orgy unless you’ve got her guy’s OK which isn’t they say likely I don’t know about vice versa at an orgy everyone wants to have everyone else only once no two guys together the males want to watch the females screw so that occurs it turns them on the best orgy I ever went to a cunt’s writing started with two girls making it on the livingroom floor Lenny tells me Lawrence is a romantic Kangaroo red and black striped overalls no hair I don’t know what the fuck to do with it I’m getting to look so ugly it won’t do anything like stand straight out fuzz into balls two more shows and everything’s over I felt dead writing before I could be dead now waking up I got a sacred Mexican ring yesterday to do just that remember every single dream for the next two weeks as soon as I wake up not getting so pissed off all the time completely hostile I’d like Jewels this life’s not romantic enough too hidden yet to be found in the fucking brain and mind I have to get back to the show Lenny’s putting on his coat son of a bitch

after we had dinner at this god awful chinese restaurant fake chinese gardens the waiter shit wouldn’t give another bowl to us for the winter melon soup for two on the menu Mickey was barely able to kiss Mark goodbye we went to Mark’s house 13th and A stories about how If you venture out there after dark one block or more you automatically get raped mugged castrated we smoked went into the bedroom to see the new waterbed it was gorgeous like being in the ocean the waves lapping back and forth it was the only thing in the room except for a tape deck white walls no curtains Mark said he was ­going to paint the walls different shades of blue striped in a funnel the rug would be dyed to match the ceiling the floor would be an actual funnel you’d go right through I was completely smashed Mark was hot for Lenny spent an hour? two hours? making these absurd hints he only wanted to sleep with Ellen the new dancer Lenny was playing dumb too smashed or not digging he finally said do you want to sleep with me Lenny didn’t want me to leave the room I didn’t want to leave the waterbed under any circumstances my dress kept getting undone earlier in the evening Mark had been kissing me he gave a speech about male male fucking god knows why he ever wants a female I said I the fucking cats didn’t want to sleep with Mark Mark said he’d prefer Lenny between the two of us he’d take us both he didn’t think I was ugly I was so complimented I didn’t want to watch watching Lenny fuck someone and not being able to be involved wanting to would blow me Mark kept pushing Lenny telling me to go into the livingroom Lenny didn’t want me there Ronny came in Bill Blass jumpsuit blue with a thin white belt Bill Blass scarf my my richies Hanky Panky crackers from Boston I ate one and didn’t like it Mark wanted to go back to the livingroom I wanted to get out of there back to the cats I prefer gay guys because I’m not under pressure constantly to fuck them watch if my clothing’s always closed which it’s not I was feeling anomalous Mark started saying the mattress in the waterbed on the waterbed is torn I have to fix it he even threaded a real needle Lenny can you help me Ronny’s cracking ridiculous jokes Mark’s done it so often he even has it timed Mark says you can watch Ronny’s not a voyeur we watch Rat-Race Debbie Schmereynolds an incredibly creepy flic in which Debbie’s a good girl who’d rather give up her guy than prostitute I don’t remember if she’s living with him in sin it was very romantic Ronny and I were finally talking Johnny Carson turned on crude gags about hookers drag queens everyone’s one for fun I’m learning about Middle America the whole place is mad I’m cold to Lenny don’t admit I am which is nasty I want to see my cats Mark has one Tiffany she’s seven weeks pregnant and crawls through almost closed windows and bars no one else comes it was a party not even Mickey Mark said that Mickey would be very upset if he knew that Mark slept with anyone else Mark would if Mickey did it’s quite nutty there’s this rich guy Jack who’s been supporting Mark still is? they have an expensive looking place not much furniture yet no books of course we’re open for any garbage I get pissed off when Mark kisses me and calls me a girl he’s upset I am I try to relax rub him goodnight Lenny’s acting like he’s lost his mind we get a ride with this dope seller creep doesn’t know why anyone would live in a commune not enough money to the Eighth Street subway this is the first dream sequence 1:17 I have to go out for the rest of the day get my hair cut again thank god.


Excerpted from Essential Acker: The Selected Writings of Kathy Acker

” Copyright 2002 by the Estate of Kathy Acker. Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.