cover image My Mother: Demonology

My Mother: Demonology

Kathy Acker. Pantheon Books, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40349-4

Acker's ( Blood and Guts in High School ) 10th novel continues her well-established tradition of nontraditional prose: she borrows from both absurdism and metafiction, yet the final product is her own--a haunting and sometimes amusing fictional event. In a voice at once disturbing and wryly humorous, her narrator, Laure, recounts both dreams and real events to subtly weave together a dark autobiography. Laure's journey from the emotional and sexual abuses of childhood to the confusion of a girls' boarding school is fraught with psychological tortures, both created by and imposed upon her. Her attempt to overcome her parents' cruelty, her fetishization of various friends and lovers, and her eventual transformation into a weathered, motorcycle-riding bohemian are all told in vivid if surreal detail. Acker infuses often shocking social and political commentary that never detracts from her voice--everyone from the Marquis de Sade to H. Ross Perot fits right into the stew. Yet the book may leave some readers cold. Acker's constant graphic references to bodily functions and violent sexual acts are part of the experimental voice, but readers may feel as if the experiment--and the joke, as well--is on them. Despite inspired writing and astute observations, the novel ultimately fails to make us care. What emerges is a hallucinatory amalgam of emotion and desire, held together by a series of abstract events. (Aug.)