Poetry News

Kathy Acker's Empire of the Senseless

By Harriet Staff
Kathy Acker, Empire of the Senseless, cover

At Paris Review Daily, an excerpt from Alexandra Kleeman's introduction to Kathy Acker's Empire of the Senseless (Grove, 2018). Of the "obscene and mind-bending saga set in the shadow of Reagan’s presidency," Kleeman writes, "it remains insolently rooted in the world in which we belong, anchored by Acker’s stubborn commitment to rendering visible the sexist, racist, capitalistic, father-fucking societal ego of her time—and of our own." More:

“Knowing much information and not feeling anything doesn’t get you anywhere,” a terrorist tells Abhor early on.“The answer to your question is that democracy doesn’t get you anywhere.” As heterodox as Acker may be in form and structure, this novel is concerned with elemental political questions: How should we navigate the nowhere of the present, and where else is there to go? Empire was written within what Acker calls a “post-cynical” period in American society, where faith in the sanctity of middle-class white domesticity had been displaced by post-Watergate disillusionment. She felt little need to further explain why, how, or in what way society was rotten, and gravitated instead toward the utopian, in the older archaic sense of the term: an elsewhere, a reality deferred. The elsewhere she crafts is equal parts NeuromancerStory of the Eye, and Huckleberry Finn, a slurry of histories that points the way to a future, another way to be. “We now have to find somewhere to go, a belief, a myth,” Acker writes. “Empire of the Senseless is my first attempt to find a myth, a place, not the myth, the place.”

Read on at Paris Review Daily.

Originally Published: June 13th, 2018