cover image Empire of the Senseless

Empire of the Senseless

Kathy Acker. Grove/Atlantic, $17.95 (227pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1079-4

Set in the present and near future, this is an apocalyptic tale that makes Clockwork Orange look tame. It's alternately narrated by the female Abhor, ``part robot, part black,'' and the male Thivai, a diagnosed paranoid. Thivai is a sort of wide-eyed Huck Finn adventuring through a postmodern world that is punctuated by random violence. Algerian immigrants have taken over Paris, Western cities are now ``composed of dead and mutants,'' punky kids are playing at being terrorists, CIA plots aboundall this, Acker tells us during the age of Reagan. The most eerie quality of these new-age humanoids is their anesthetized emotions; females of any age are referred to as ``cunts'' and sadomasochistic relationships, be they homosexual or heterosexual, whether involving children or consenting adults, are the norm. A plotless stream-of-consciousness style and sexually explicit prose only dull Acker's powerful message. (September)