on ‘After Kathy Acker: A Literary Biography’

Download (7)Jenny Turner at the LRB:

In France, Chris Kraus wrote in an essay from 2003, there exists ‘a formal/ informal structure for the perpetuation of a dead artist’s work’ that gets called ‘the Society of Friends’. The friends gather up the artist’s work, plans, notebooks and so on and write and elicit tributes, then publish the lot in a book called the ‘Cahiers’, maybe at their own expense. ‘Why do the friends do this? It can only be that they believe, in some real way, the friend’s life and work belongs to them … It speaks for them because they shared a place in time.’

She begins her present book, which ‘may or may not be a biography of Kathy Acker’, by evoking the circles that gathered around her subject’s ashes in the weeks after her death from metastatic breast cancer in an alternative medicine clinic in Tijuana in November 1997. Seventeen people arrived at the house of the poet Bob Glück in San Francisco that December for a ceremony with a Nyingma Buddhist practitioner. Most of the group consisted of what Kevin Killian remembers as ‘New Agey-type people who had helped Kathy in her last years. Tattooists, bodybuilders, motorcycle girls, S/M practitioners, herbalists, it was almost like an upstairs-downstairs thing.’

A few weeks after that, a smaller group attended a sea-scattering at Fort Funston, the location picked by Matias Viegener, the friend who had done most to look after the dying Acker and whom she had appointed her executor. Frank Molinaro, whom Acker had paid for astrological advice, passed out business cards in the car park, then grabbed hold of the vase with the cremains in it. ‘

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