Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Chris Kraus: After Kathy Acker, 25/09/17 London Review Bookshop

A sold-out affair at Bloomsbury’s prestigious London Review bookshop, Kraus’ ode to the late, great Acker was welcomed to the shelf by Juliet Jacques (author of Trans: a memoir) and the novel’s author Chris Kraus (author also of I Love Dick, Aliens and Anorexia). The atmosphere was cosy, punters nursing obligatory wine glasses in a sea of literary spectacles and polished brogues. After Kathy Acker is what Kraus champions as a “career biography” written posthumously from a limited narrator as woman who moved in similar artistic circles during New York’s wild 70s/80s. Kraus marks Acker’s death as “radicalising” and speaks of her access to Acker’s diaries shortly after her death and the question of when and whether to write the biography. “If you wait 20 years it’s all very elegiac” she asserts, striving for a “revisionist history of 80s New York”. Their stories and circles are undoubtedly similar; sleeping with the same people (Sylvère Lotringer), going to the same parties, breathing the same air. Whilst Kraus marks the scene as “snobby” and “air-clad”, Acker’s work is also tinged with this sentiment of claustrophobia and Kraus reads a short extract from her “Politics”; exploring Acker’s relationship with writing, pornographic work, sexual politics and familial estrangement. She speaks also of Acker’s “self-serving white lies” which she employed throughout her career to “give her the legitimacy that she deserved”. This invites a discussion of writing and the self (“a biography is a hologram composed of fragments”) as well as Kraus admitting that contrary to critical knowledge, she had not been personally acquainted with Acker. Kraus speaks reverently of Great Expectations and the short story’s artful meshing of grieving and the writing process though is keen to mark the gendered assumptions of women who write about women that “anything short of hating or liking will be seen as envy”. Further to this, Jacques draws attention to Acker’s experiments with CD-ROMs as a result of being ex-communicated from literary circles after falling out of critical fashion in the mid-80s and the conversation touches on Acker’s foray into theatre with plays such as Desire. Both Kraus and Acker’s New York is filthy, sexually liberated and self-masturbatory and the evening’s discussion siphons into the ouroboros-y of the art scene and spoken word nights in which Acker (“the chamber writer of Downtown New York”) would rattle off the names and shames of former flames to an audience of friends; “feeding the scene back into itself”. Kraus’ immortalisation of Acker is humbly motivated and driven by the desire to write the true Acker back into the subject space, rather than purely an object of scandal and sex, untimely taken. I purchased myself a copy, quietly squirming at the price, quietly asking Chris Kraus to sign it then promptly faded away, rosy-cheeked, on the 171 in a cloud of free wine and biblio-bliss.

Words by Elinor Potts
Written for [smiths] magazine

Sunday, 3 September 2017

An open letter to irresponsible journalism

To the journalist who dragged his name through the dirt for the sake of small-town politics. Did you have a good weekend? Are those a new pair of shoes? Did you lie awake knowing that the individual you outed for "deviance"  spent his morning looking between an angry mob and a blade's edge?
I love my family thoroughly and unconditionally. I'm exhausted from a string of unpaid work experiences and weekends working night shifts at festivals to fund an English degree. How was that for you? It's my Mother's 53rd birthday today and it is today that I was invited to witness the full extent of deceptive, nonchalant and singleminded reportage.
At 9 AM this morning he promised me not to talk about politics, balancing a tray of croissants and niceties as we walked in to greet my mother. It was whilst gripping the steering wheel on the road to the station that he finally erupted, spitting a torrent of classified truths, bracketed by confidentiality. NON-DISCLOSURE. NON-DISCLOSURE. NON-DISCLOSURE.
Did you know that the man you mis-quoted for the sake of a marginal political monopoly has been unemployed for months? That scandal peppers his google search? A mis-quote that has flown far further than the shire, sneering at us across the Atlantic from behind a paywall. Did you momentarily consider the repercussions on a family? On an individual's will to live? How was your holiday in the Maldives? I know the tropes that you're clumsily fashioning, designing your victim, selling your salacious poison to city-slicking gossip-mongers.
Trading counterfeit news-bites is hardly enough to keep the bailiffs away from a crumbling publication. My initials are laced with fire and I'll write for the right to an honest press.