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Literal Madness: Three Novels

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  164 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
My Death My Life by Pier Paolo Pasolini imagines the Italian filmmaker and writer returning to the Roman homosexual hustlers he knew, in a “scathing commentary on false values in art” (The Hartford Courant).
Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 13th 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1987)
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëA Room of One's Own by Virginia WoolfThe Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
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Apr 24, 2015 M. rated it really liked it
Kathy Goes to Haiti - 11/11/14
Early Acker that's interesting in that it's not quite as "balls out" (in certain ways) as much of her other work (I wouldn't quite say "later" because THE BURNING BOMBING OF AMERICA I believe predates this & is itself crazy and perfect)--but what's fascinating here is the direct engagement with "feminism"--and I use scare-quotes here because part of the novel's operating parameters seem to be to constantly destabilize the idea. The character of Kathy waivers bet
Jul 12, 2009 R. rated it it was amazing
Recommended to R. by: Melanie
Shelves: 2009
I'd been curious about Kathy Acker; I knew of her work by reputation only: placement in the indie/queer section in the late 90s at Powells Bookstore in Portland, Ore.

If you were gay, bi, pierced, curious, protoemo, a mopey pomo or overselfmedicated on Prozac and taking a lot of long drives to Powells in the rain you, too, no doubt saw the Ackerthologies.

I want to note that I recently learned through a review that Acker once did an interview with Alasdair Gray - author of the delightful Poor Thi
Apr 11, 2011 Drew added it
I'm not offering a star rating here. I read this at university, years ago and at the time enjoyed it very much as a piece of ludic post-modernist anti-fiction. Of course, nowadays I like to settle down with a Len Deighton, Jeffrey Archer or Jonathan Franzen novel, take a good single malt snifter, and lower myself into the temperate waters of resigned realism. But Cathy Acker had a lot of spunk, a lot of kick. Maybe I should read it again...
Keith Schnell
Jan 26, 2014 Keith Schnell rated it really liked it
Literal Madness really deserves three separate reviews, one for each of the two short novels and one short story that are often published together, since they vary widely in subject matter and writing style. As it happens, the three are almost always published as a collection of the novels Kathy Goes to Haiti and My Death My Life by Pier Paolo Pasolini and the short story “Florida,” so a useful review should also combine them.

Kathy Goes to Haiti uses a narrative of the protagonist’s trip to Hait
"Kathy Goes to Haiti" a.k.a. the only story I read in this trilogy, reminded me of a grainy, poorly lit 70s porn movie where there was no pretense of good acting or a comprehensive plot line, merely a short and laughably bad dialogue between two people who happened to be scantily clad around each other and mutually lonely. Which is not to say it wasn't interesting to read, but sort of a strange, meandering plot line that involved a single woman's travels through Haiti. She makes it apparent from ...more
Aug 27, 2009 Dan rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
Three novels by Kathy Acker. In Kathy Goes to Haiti, the protagonist, a white girl named Kathy, goes to Haiti. There, she finds many males suggesting themselves as possible boyfriends or husbands. They tell her it’s because women are not supposed to be independent in Haiti. Kathy starts seeing one of the men, and much of the novel is about their relationship. While Kathy is in Haiti, she learns about its economy and culture. In a number of ways, the novel reflects what Fredric Jameson characteri ...more
Elizabeth Finnegan
May 24, 2013 Elizabeth Finnegan rated it liked it
Kathy Goes to Haiti

This narrative is accessible to most readers, although many will find its graphic sexual imagery shocking. The novel tells the story of a young woman's travels to Haiti, and does include gripping descriptions of the country's sights and sounds. However the focus is on Kathy's sexual relationship with Roger, a wealthy and influential son of a plantation owner and it is impossible not to wonder why. Acker's true genius is that she never explains this choice. It is up to the read
Dec 09, 2015 sysh rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up in the Yaddo library because I liked the title. I had never heard of Kathy Acker so had no idea what to expect. Wow. So now I know. I only read the first novel in this collection, "Kathy Goes to Haiti". Apparently this is queer/punk/post-punk/feminist literature? Anyway, whatever it is, I kind of loved it. You can't go wrong with lines like "Kathy's cunt is silent, ready, nothing." Will definitely be checking out more of her stuff in the future.
Winston O'Toole
The problem here was that I tried to read all three in one go. Kathy Goes to Haiti was fine as it's more conventional and I enjoyed the story - despite the fact it was rambly and didn't seem to have a point. I like things that are rambly and don't seem to have a point. Couldn't get through My Death My Life though. There were good bits in there but, try as I might, experimental feminist literature just doesn't seem to be for me. Also: there's a bit where one of the characters says "We only speak ...more
Michael Wais
Aug 29, 2015 Michael Wais rated it did not like it
This book gave me a migraine. Acker's writing's way too sloppy and incoherent.
Yousra Bushehri
Feb 17, 2013 Yousra Bushehri rated it liked it
Kathy Goes to Haiti

Okay, such a weird but good story. I was little disappointed with the ending, but it fit well with the story. But can I just say that I wanted to slap Kathy entire time.
Nikki Li
Feb 14, 2009 Nikki Li rated it it was ok
Read 115 pages all the way through of Literal Madness before I gave up on it. There are 3 stories in the book, and I only liked the first one: Kathy Goes To Haiti.
May 10, 2007 Neelanjana rated it it was ok
Hmmm, I *want* to love Kathy Acker. I think I need to read her in a class setting. I started on Kathy Goes to Haiti but just couldn't get down with it.
Philip Bardach
Apr 17, 2010 Philip Bardach rated it it was ok
If anything, this confirmed the fact that Acker's writing is something I appreciate, but not something I derive much pleasure from.
Apr 15, 2012 Sage rated it liked it
Parts of this book were interesting, but overall it was pretty dated. Acker has a very 1970s point of view.
Jul 21, 2009 Heather rated it liked it
I really love Kathy Goes to Haiti, the others less so ...
Reads like the inside of my brain.
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Born of German-Jewish stock, Kathy Acker was brought up by her mother and stepfather (her natural father left her mother before Kathy was born) in a prosperous district of NY. At 18, she left home and worked as a stripper. Her involvement in the sex industry helped to make her a hit on the NY art scene, and she was photographed by the newly fashionable Robert Mapplethorpe. Preferring to be known s ...more
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“They had not, under the heavens and on earth, one single weapon. They don't control the land they live on, the schools which train them, the heat and food their bodies need to live through the winter's cold, the media which gives them language, the military weapons for which they give most of their money. There is no more time in this city. Reasonable people don't let themselves dream because no dream can be true. They have a cry that bought them back to first causes: But we who have no mothers, no fathers, no homes or love. Where are we going to run?” 1 likes
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