cover image In Memoriam to Identity

In Memoriam to Identity

Kathy Acker. Grove/Atlantic, $19.95 (265pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1170-8

Acker, known for her scatological excursions into the demimonde of post-modernism, is above all a literalist, and a literary one at that. If her concern is the alienation wrought by industrialization, she literally appropriates Dickens's Pip, as she did in her first novel (sassily titled Great Expectations ), and thrusts him into the complexities of her time. In this new book, Acker mourns the childhood innocence (mostly sexual) lost to socialization. She invokes the writings of Rimbaud and Faulkner, blending them with modern angst and not a little political posturing--about AIDS, Thatcherism, etc. The book's four interlocking stories detail Rimbaud's doomed relationships with his mother and the poet Verlaine, Quentin Compson's deluded engagement with his unfolding fate and the tragic exploitation (again, mostly sexual) of several other characters. The tie that binds these narratives is the frenetic struggle to escape from the limitations of the social self. Acker writes with the coldest beauty and the most perfervid excess; she will find the audience that wants nothing in between. (July)