I’m Very Into You: Chris Kraus on Kathy Acker

By turns languid and frantic, Acker and Wark’s correspondence unfolds as a kind of adult romance: a journey with words through distance toward connection and knowledge. In his second email to Acker, Wark asks: “Do we need to analyze our encounter with each other? Or can we just assume it, and see what kind of dialogue it anchors to a start in time?” Time was among the many productive obstacles to their virtual connection. A difference of seventeen hours lay between them. They inhabited different continents and different days. He had a tenure-track job and various lovers in Sydney; she was about to resume her part-time teaching job at the San Francisco Art Institute.

…At the time, neither Acker nor Wark saw their exchange as a potential book, or even a project, but the correspondence nevertheless unfolds as a narrative, climaxed by misunderstandings. For someone who’s slept with his addressee less than a week ago, Wark talks too much about his current and former lovers, particularly since she, at the time, had no other partners. Still, they’d made no promises to each other. Acker treads on dangerous ground, drawing him out about his other partners, only to be offended later, when he foolishly catalogs them. “First,” she writes, “you’re worried about having babies with one girl and another lover is coming out of the fistfucking closet and there’s also an old boyfriend and then, of course, desire. Lord, honey, can you have babies and keep all this going?” In some ways, Acker and Wark’s correspondence amounts to a cautionary tale against casual sex, but, in a larger sense, they’re trying to forge a brave friendship that includes sexual and intellectual intimacy aided by total disclosure. Comfort matters less to them than knowledge.

Chris Kraus writes about Kathy Acker in this month’s issue of The Believer, which is a sentence that reads like one of my actual dreams. Semiotext(e) is publishing the correspondences of Acker and McKenzie Werk, 103 pages compiled from seventeen days’ worth of emails. Read the entire thing immediately; read about Jason McBride’s upcoming biography of Kathy Acker; re-read everything by Kathy Acker; re-read everything by Chris Kraus; never go outside again.

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