A Review of Kathy Acker's Book, Empire of the Senseless – O F Cieri
January 17, 2020
Kathy Acker is one of the many things I’m supposed to like, along with American Horror Story and Tim Burton. But Kathy Acker is different, because Kathy Acker is flattering. Kathy Acker represents the American Dream. A sex worker who became a successful poet in front of the cinematic backdrop of seventies New York, gaining class and therefore maturity. Basically she gave the johns exactly what they wanted but by calling it poetry she reached readers who thought being a john was shameful. Have you read Kathy Acker? Yeah, I guess. Can you really say you’ve read a book if you didn’t enjoy it? I’ve been on trains with Kathy Acker and seen her words in front of me, but I struggled to pay attention.
—oh sure I loved the descriptions of violence and sex. Who doesn’t love sex and violence? But I can’t shake the feeling that her voice is the sound of the hand sweeping losers off the map. It’s a voice that says it heard and understands your pain and suffering, and the tourists are going to love listening to your life’s story on their walking tours. This is the voice that speaks in the infomercial for the product that comodifies your life story. It’s just that easy– just point, click and snap. Now thousands will know what it’s like to be you. This is poetry from people who like to say Gentrification Won for a reaction but get very hurt if you treat them like gentrifiers.
“I was here when it was bad and I prefer it clean,”
If you don’t like it why don’t you go home?
“I am home.”
You’re from the suburbs, Kathy. You feel comfortable there. You just think you don’t because you want to shave your head. And I feel you, shaving your head is great, but I want you to know shaving your head doesn’t inoculate you from becoming your own mother. Those jokes don’t come naturally because you’re so witty. She pre-programmed you to think the city was gross and dangerous, and you love it because that idea is so deep in your blood it’s written in your marrow.
What’s the point of arguing? You don’t think this is about politics, it’s just me being squeamish about needleplay. You’re a masochist, which just means you’re an exhibitionist. The best performers are masochists. It’s all about being put on display. Being a sadist is a difference type of performance, more like being a stagehand. You wear all black, pull the ropes and set the scene.
Pro doms I know treat their subs like divas. Oh they love them, but sometimes they need to have a cigarette and bitch about what the sub wanted this week. No matter how good the chemistry is between them, at the end of the day the doms are just setting up the equipment to act out the sub’s fantasy. They wanted to be hooked to the couch, then complained about the chafing. Kathy Acker with her thighs full of pins in one of those feathery starlet nightgowns screaming “You did it wrong, you idiot! I thought we talked about this! You go with the grain. I don’t pay for scars, I pay for pain!”
But I’m just a civilian. The closest I’ve ever got to a dungeon is the bar on Friday while my friends complain. They don’t sound much different from my friends who tattoo or sling drinks or cut hair. It’s all customer service.