Recently, Carrie Brownstein—actor, comedian, author, and one-third of Riot grrrl band, Sleater-Kinney—posted a snap to Instagram showcasing her copy of I’m very into you laying atop a red background sans any commentary. It’s no wonder that Brownstein didn’t include any words with her picture because this intimate book has a way of rendering the reader speechless.
I’m very into you is, as Matias Viegener puts it in the Introduction, “the surviving correspondence between Kathy Acker and McKenzie Wark.” (5) After happening upon each other in Australia while Acker was on a work-related trip, the two shared a tryst that ultimately turned into a frenzied game of email tag lasting a fortnight. Viegener notes, “If you want to know how brainy nerds of a certain period fall into courtship, this is your book. Ken Wark and Kathy Acker met in Sydney in July of 1995 and this is the email exchange that followed.” (6)
Born and raised in the Upper East Side of New York, Kathy Acker was an essayist, performance artist, and novelist. She died of breast cancer in Tijuana, Mexico in 1997 but she left us with gems like Blood and Guts in High School, In Memoriam to Identity, and Pussy, King of the Pirates. She’s often been categorized as one of the great punk poets, postmodernists, and sex-positive feminists of our time.
McKenzie Wark hails from Australia and writes on subjects like media theory, critical theory, and the Situationist International. His books include Hacker Manifesto, Gamer Theory, and Virtual Geography. He lives in New York and teaches at The New School.
During their brief emailing spell, Acker and Worth wrote to each other several times daily. In fact, in the one instant they went more than two days without corresponding—while Acker was on a trip to LA—Wark writes, “It’s been so strange, not writing you for, what? 72 hours?” (123) In the Afterword, John Kinsella describes their ongoing conversation in these email threads as a sort of poetics and rightfully so. The two touch on a broad range of topics all whilst tackling their feelings towards each other and towards the world at large.
Acker and Wark discuss anything and everything including The X-Files, The Simpsons, Elvis Presley, phenomenology, Portishead, the I Ching, psychoanalysis, Bataille, American wrestling as performance art, and whatever else they could pack into their cyberspace-set fling. Of course, each had their own idiosyncratic take on the various topics and didn’t miss a beat on sharing said opinions. On Elvis, Wark writes:
Actually I’m completely indifferent to Elvis musically. I chose to write about him on Duchampian grounds–indifference. But I’ve come to think of his death as a touchstone for the modern problem of the sacred. (117)
He says this in response to Acker’s fascination with Wark’s decision to write about Elvis.
But as mentioned, their conversations weren’t only made up of fuel for intellectualist debates; they were also soft and vulnerable. During a very real will-they, won’t they moment, Acker writes:
Yes, you’ve had me totally confused. And I still am…’cause emotions take longer to move in me than thought…and I didn’t sleep last night…Oh, I can’t figure out how to get back to your email to read it again. I’ll have to go from memory. Well, I do want to sleep with you again and wish we didn’t have to hedge around (is that a phrase?) each other so much; I’m not very good with total ambiguity, just want the bit of irony that’s always there. I’m very into you. (107-108)
And of course, Wark responds by telling Acker that he’s very into her too, causing the reader to simultaneously swoon and feel like the luckiest fly on the wall of a wildly interesting room.
(Semiotext(e), Nonfiction, Paperback, February 2015)
While Kathy Acker has passed on, consider reading this interview and this one for a peek at what a kickass lady she was. Read this and this for more insight from her peers/admirers. McKenzie Wark is, however, still around and you can follow his twitter musings here. Check out his Public Seminar site here.
NEYAT YOHANNES is an Eritrean-American writer who’s from LA, but just moved to the Bay. By day, she doles out ice packs to kids who don’t need it as an elementary school office lady turned unofficial nurse. She spends the rest of her waking hours writing, attempting to be more formidable like Whitley Gilbert, and trying to keep Drake lyrics from constantly spilling out of her mouth. You can read some of her published work here. She tweets as @rhymeswithcat and occasionally blogs here.