Work vs. “The Work” and Kathy Acker

Good things have shaken loose, and I’ve got three novelsongs in a state of excited half-completion. That’s also the bad news. There’s no writers block, though. There’s just a time-block. Pretty simply, I’m lucky enough to be working full time at a great job (as jobs go), and it’s making it impossible to put the time I need in to these songs. And it’s making me feel alienated from myself.

But I can find time to read, which makes this project some kind of blessing, right? I finally located a used copy of Kathy Acker’s BLOOD AND GUTS IN HIGH SCHOOL, and it makes me weirdly emotional to read it every night, and for reasons I can’t adequately explain. I miss Kathy Acker, although I never knew her. I thought the things her work revealed to us would become part of our common language, our common understanding. But instead she seems to have been erased, and we’ve reverted to a culture without her revelation. As a teenager in the 1970s, I felt that way about the raised consciousness of the 1960s – or rather, the quickly re-lowered consciousness of the 1970s. How could we pretend it never happened?

The Kathy Acker song actually began a year before I realized it had roots in BLOOD AND GUTS IN HIGH SCHOOL. It’s kind of beautiful, which may make it hard to square with the jerky rhythms and unsettled edges in her work. But the longer I go with this project, the more the books become mainly emotional jumping off points. THE ROSEWOOD CASKET comes closest to following the book’s narrative — except it turns out to be a completely different sort of counter-narrative. This means that this project is doing what I wanted it to do: to be a way of reaching out to novels — outside works of art — and having them turn me back on myself and find some new place in me I couldn’t go on my own.

Winning the Outmusic Award and then having to prep for my big showcase at International Folk Alliance have also both turned into big time-sucks as well, I gotta admit, although I’m grateful for both, and they should get me on at least three extended tours this year. Maybe that will help: I always end up writing in my head when I drive long distances.

OK, I”m sleepy now. More later.

© Dudley Saunders