I’m Very Into You: Correspondence 1995–1996

Kathy Acker | McKenzie Wark

April 18, 2015 
Born today in 1947 (or, according to the Library of Congress, 1948, or, according to several obituaries, 1944), Kathy Acker was a novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, and feminist writer. Her work includes Blood and Guts in High School, Empire of the Senseless, In Memoriam to Identity, My Mother: Demonology, and Pussy King of the Pirates. Acker met Wark on a trip to Australia in 1995 and immediately began a heated two-week email correspondence.
Date: Tue, 8 Aug 1995 00:14:31 +1000 (EST)

From: McKenzie Wark <mwark@laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au> 
To: Kathy Acker <acker@eworld.com>

Subject: greetings from hooterville

I drove out of the airport in a daze and motored straight out to work. After shuffling papers around on my desk like a jigsaw puzzle I came home and slept all day. Hadn’t realised how much of a compound hangover hung over. It’s now late Monday night and I’m feeling better. Been reading alternate chapters of _Exterminator!_ and the Bockris bio of Warhol. You were absolutely right about the Burroughs. The second chapter is about ‘becoming wolf.’ I feel a bit like there was some kind of napalm strike and I missed it. There’s not much I can say ’cause whatever happened I don’t seem to have been a witness. Or maybe like Gregory Peck in _Spellbound_, it’ll come back to me.

But I certainly won’t forget that I enjoyed being with you. The shared intimacies of body, mind and spirit: it’s such a fleeting thing, so singular. I think we’re probably both pretty solitary in our own ways, but for a slice out of time we were singular together. There are no words. I just want to say there are no words. I’m glad you came; and I’m glad you came. Thinking about you sleeping on a plane with those knockout herbal sleep-bombs of yours. Bear with me. I’ll have something to say for myself sometime soon. When I remember who I thought I was in the first place. Even if I’ve been displaced a little from wherever that was.


Date: Mon, 7 Aug 1995 19:13:00 -0700 
From: Acker@eworld.com

To: mwark@laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au 
Subject: Re: greetings from hooterville

It’s so great coming home to your message, more precisely, coming home to find out that luggage was missing until the next plane, then the checks I got in Australia for work all can’t be cashed ’cause they’re non-negotiable and I have ten dollars in the bank, and then and then, oh jetlag, so your message is changing the day—or is it night?—around. Whatever in virtual or non-virtual the sky, and Gurdjieff made the plane bearable (reading him, an adventure story, imagine that), so I too—this was all a long prelude—am terribly dazed, about to fall into the bath and then try to write, fuck food—and dazed a bit still about meeting you…but truly glad…you have a rare delicacy and grace, Ken, in all aspects…all the time there (in Sydney) that I didn’t know what was going on and so would begin to become confused and so paranoid, and even now, what becomes/became present was how easy it is to be with you. Like: you the one I want/wanted to talk to. Thank you. Yes, there’s always solitude but, for me, I am even more grateful when there are meetings. Oh. I’ll recede, not into confusion, but pure tiredness now (the bath) and Portishead…look for new books to read…talk to my stuffed animals…began reading your _Virtual Geography_ on the plane…shall write again when more coherent…byebye (like, lullabye)

Date: Wed, 9 Aug 1995 01:46:51 +1000 (EST)

From: McKenzie Wark <mwark@laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au> 
To: Acker@eworld.com

Subject: portisheadspace

Tuesday night. Put the Portishead on. I’ll associate it with you now. Funny how music becomes an external memory code.

I hope yr bath was a pleasant one. What are your stuffed animals called? Bummer about the checks (or as one would write here, cheques). Asynchronous conversation.

Strange, trying to translate an understanding of communication premised on your presence into one premised on yr absence—writing.

But it’s not a good idea to get too self-conscious…

I’m in an abstract state of mind. Just wrote a multimedia policy for the department. Thinking about how the resource allocation can be used to drive certain desired outcomes. Power trippin’, in other words. Tomorrow I get to meet the prime minister and cabinet. I’m tagging along to a meeting about access issues in new media. Power voyeurism, in other words. I’m in it so I can put the scene in my next book.

Why am I telling you all this? Partly ’cause the whole queerness/ identity thing for me stretches through everything, absolutely everything. Slipping between straight/gay is child’s play compared to slipping between writer/teacher/influence-peddler whatever. I forget who I am. You reminded me of who I prefer to be.

Can the spots change their leopard?

Do we need to analyse our encounter with each other? Or can we just assume it, and see what kind of dialogue it anchors to a start in time?

I opened one of your books at random:

“Hot female flesh on hot female flesh. And it doesn’t go anywhere: flesh. Flesh. For the cunt opens and closes, a perpetual motion machine, a scientific wonder, perpetually coming, opening and closing on itself to ecstasy or nausea—does it, you, ever tire? Roses die faster. Roses die faster than you, you whores in my heart.”

And I notice that I marked this with a pencil the first time I read it, which must have been 5 year ago. The really beautiful, in the classical sense beautiful passages stand out so clearly because of the violence around them. It’s like being the decadent count in Dali’s novel, putting a drop of extreme sweetness on his tongue to balance the preceding drop of the quintessence of bitterness.

But now I imagine I can sense you hiding, a perpetual motion machine in my hands, between the lines. There are reaches of me that I can only put in language as feminine, and those reaches exposed themselves to you, felt comfortable next to you sometimes. That doesn’t happen very often.

But I’m starting to analyse: to put the digital of the word in the place of the ebb of memory.

To wind up with a stray thought: the I Ching for our times. Not the randomly chosen page of the same text, but the same page every day on a different text. Page 141. Every day, another page 141. The I Ching is a closed universe/text, but we need a divining mechanism for an open, endless one. A perpetual motion machine that moves differently each time. Will that which you would have return, always, differently.


Date: Wed, 9 Aug 1995 01:52:42 -0700 
From: Acker@eworld.com

To: mwark@laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au 
Subject: Re: portisheadspace

Oh will I remember all that you just wrote? Memory slips even more than…what?…gender (is that self? not here)…and I was going to email, I can’t even remember spelling, to just quickly tell you about the movie I just saw, Todd Haynes _Safe_…and your email!…now I can’t remember all you said ’cause I want to tell you, emotion taking over, see _Safe_, it is WONDERFUL hits the spot (advertisers make correctness) makes the art world into the stupid nothing it is…well it is so great seeing something that good…I saw it with RU we’re friends again which is great ’cause I hate losing friends there aren’t enough and it is my family, my friends…so now all is dream…Australia and this usual life melding, here where I do my emailing at two in the morning and wake up figuring out deals business how to give my publisher his share of daily grief oh will I get enough hours to write? I’m so greedy to do that…not like Sydney passing days drunk roaming through the bookstore with you…oh no please “analysis”? For me, “analysis” means “Kathy’s being insecure and needs to breathe a few times.” I hate it and can’t remember anything anyways…except dreams…all this reality slipping and sliding…my main stuffed animals are Gulfie otherwise known as Woofie who is a feral witch I mean wolf only I just washed him so he looks almost sweet which is very disconcerting but probably needs my stinky body next to his so he can become feral again…and then there’s Ratski (Rat) the star of my new novel ’cause the pirate girls’ banner is RAT EATS ALL (based on certain ways of telling about the “musa” (mouse) (rat according to me) who sits at Ganesh’s feet) …and then there’s WITCH or BITCH who is very powerful so I tongue kiss her a lot all my animals are very penetrable including my feral motorcycles…one is still in shop and the other needs a carb adjustment but is happy I’m back ’cause he needs a lot of attention from me…is this pantheism or just spaciness?…it’s two in the morning…I know what you mean about slipping roles: I love it, going high low, power helpless even captive, male female, all over the place, space totally together and brain-sharp, if it wasn’t for play I’d be bored stiff and I think boredom is the emotion I find most unbearable…I’d say there’s my love for Baudelaire but he’s also so cool when he talks about Jeannne Duval’s stinky body it makes me feel as if I’m in this danger whose name is sex…I know what you mean about slipping male/female I never know which one I am I used to get all worried about myself, I should make decisions, announce a name, and at some point I just gave up ’cause it’s too difficult and, oh, I started this book by Alphonse Lingis _The Community Of Those Who Have Nothing In Common_, the title reminds me of Blanchot, the intro. is so great, as I was reading it I started seeing (thinking) what you said about ethics, the need…sort of the terrain of _Safe_…I love emailing you…last night when I went to bed I thought, oh it’s strange doing this without K, what a great sudden feeling ’cause I never feel that and it’s good to remember things like that again…like a sudden opening into a forgotten territory…emailing must be pure narcissism…I think I’m going to blab even more intensely now so byebye for tonight…I’m not good at saying things emotionally I guess that’s one place I’m male, am pleased that you’re better at it than me… I just get awkward when I should be direct and say, oh what do you think it all means? I also have a huge fat white cat who used to be the queen of the world because she was so aristocratic but now has been mashed by too much sleeping with me and looks like a rat though not feral I also have a shark but he stays in the living room ’cause he’s not furry after all there are rules of proper behavior oh byebye

Date: Wed, 9 Aug 1995 19:43:59 +1000 (EST)

From: McKenzie Wark <mwark@laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au> 
To: Acker@eworld.com

Subject: Re: portisheadspace

Greetings from Canberra, bureaucracy’s answer to Disneyland. Like Washington, only even more provincial. It’s a long distance call, so this is just to say hi. Watching new series _The Simpsons_—it’s getting pretty weird. Gotta go investigate the minibar…


Date: Wed, 9 Aug 1995 23:26:56 -0700 
From: Acker@eworld.com

To: mwark@laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au 
Subject: Re: portisheadspace

Simpsons, huh? I’ll check it out. Am depressed, a rarity for me, so want to blab a little. More: scream. Have already screamed at RU and my closest girlfriend here, Dianne. It’s so cool: while I was away, she fell in love with this beautiful girl who owns the new fancy restaurant in town. Dianne’s so happy. She’s totally beautiful: won a few bodybuilding contests and works as a psychic (California life). I’m avoiding my scream. Oh, I usually feel narcissistic on email and just blab everything, but now I’m becoming shy. It’s that damn Sylvère [Lotringer]. The moment his marriage breaks up, he phones me. A few months ago. Now he’s in LA; phones me again. I ask, what’s up. He tells me that he has the huge books coming on: a several-volume compilation of Foucault, one of Félix [Guattari’s] works. Etc. A dream about Félix. Then begins talking about his wife/ex-wife, Chris Kraus. How she needs a boyfriend. Why? Because she wants to be happy (she left him). All well and fine. Finally, he asks about me and I don’t want to say anything, paranoid, so I mumble something about being sick of teaching at an art college and wanting a decent univ. job with benefits. One always talks about such nonsense when one doesn’t want to say anything. No, before this, Sylvère does his usual rap about the stupidity of Americans, their misunderstanding of French theory. Which always irritates me for obvious reasons. I reply something about identity, this crap about national identity, etc. He ignores my comment, as usual. OK, on to boring teaching. Sylvère, after I say I want a decent job, replies “You mean they haven’t discovered you yet?” I don’t know what he means by “discover,” I think that maybe he’s making some bad joke about no one knowing my writing. I ask him what he means by “discover.” “Discovered that you’re the Unabomber in San Francisco.” I don’t know if I can explain this but suddenly I saw, the way one sees into an opening, a large section of my past. Ten to fifteen years with Sylvère, on and off. That I had been treated like this, seen like this, then: that was my past. It was totally disgusting: that vision. I usually don’t think about what I do (rationally): I mean, say to myself, I will now sleep with women rather than men ’cause men treat me like a piece of shit. I mean, one (you I) just does what one does. But suddenly I saw, this glimpse, why I had gotten away from straight men. Yuck. And always, every interview, I have always respected Sylvère and said, he taught me, he was very important to me. Now, a past that has been seen and thrown away. To be without a past. Well. Well. Is this an awful thing to tell you? I mean, invading a kind of privacy, a privacy based on our not knowing each other that long? But then, we are getting to know each other. Well, hell, sometimes one can’t look at some straight men too closely, for the sight causes too much anger. What a way to put it. I’m, not pissed, no, I’m sad. I want a past I can acknowledge. It’s all awful. Oh well. Reading [Elfriede] Jelinek’s new book tonight; it’s quite fab. Have to fax my old agent; tell her about the new one; more working until midnight; what are you doing in Canberra? Is that part of the university dignitary business? Take care of yourself, honey. (We say “honey” in America though not in New York.)



From I’M VERY INTO YOU: CORRESPONDENCE 1995–1996. Used with the permission of the publisher, semiotext(e). Copyright © 2015 by McKenzie Wark and the Kathy Acker Literary Trust.

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