Excerpt from The Salon.com Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors by Laura Miller, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Salon.com Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors

by Laura Miller

The Salon.com Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors
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    Aug 2000, 512 pages

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FICTION: Politics (1972), The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula (1973), I Dreamt I Was a Nymphomaniac: Imagining (1974), Florida (1978,), Kathy Goes to Haiti (1978), The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec by Henri Toulouse Lautrec (1978), New York City in 1979 (1981), Great Expectations (1982), Blood and Guts in High School (1984), Algeria: A Series of Invocations Because Nothing Else Works (1985), Don Quixote (1986), Empire of the Senseless (1988), Literal Madness: Three Novels (Florida, Kathy Goes to Haiti, My Death My Life by Pier Pasolini, 1988), In Memoriam to Identity (1990), Hannibal Lecter, My Father (1991), My Mother: Demonology (1993), Pussy, King of the Pirates (1996)

NONFICTION: Bodies of Work (essays, 1997)

Rebellious, willful, innovative, in search of her own destiny, Kathy Acker made her struggle to find and exert her own voice the secret center of her writing. Her roots were in the punk movement of the 1970s, and after several experiments, all of her preoccupations came together in Blood and Guts in High School, the story of a woman living and breathing for sex. Acker's goal was to smash through the rules of language and gender in order to reclaim herself, foiling time and place in order to propose new rules of her own.

Acker was also the gangsta face of postmodern experimentalism. In Empire of the Senseless, the hero's motto is "get rid of meaning" as he joins the female half-robot Abhor in Paris on a quest for freedom, love, and their creator—somebody named Kathy. She appropriated classic works like Great Expectations and Don Quixote, exploding them into violent, pornographic pastiches. Her last novel, Pussy, King of the Pirates, celebrates her career-long history of ransacking and plundering.

Acker died from complications from breast cancer in 1998, an ironic end for an artist known for her tattoos, piercings, weight lifting, and other body manipulations and one who spent so much time finding new ways to take possession of her own body.

See Also: Acker admired Alain Robbe-Grillet and Jean Genet and consorted with new narrative writers like Dennis Cooper and Dodie Bellamy, but her work is part of the long-standing literary tradition of savaging the reader—first conceived by the surrealists and including writers like Isaac Babel, William S. Burroughs, and Hubert Selby, Jr. —Brian Bouldrey

Alexie, Sherman 1966- b. Spokane, Washington

FICTION: The Lone Ranger & Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (stories, 1993), Reservation Blues (1995), Indian Killer (1996), Toughest Indian in the World (2000)


SELECTED POETRY: The Business of Fancydancing (1992), First Indian on the Moon (1993), The Summer of Black Widows (1996), The Man Who Loves Salmon (1998)


Sherman Alexie began the 1990s as a poor unknown poet and ended them as a one-man cultural industry. A Spokane-Couer d'Alene Indian raised on a reservation in Washington State, he first attracted attention with The Business of Fancydancing, a collection of poems and stories about life on the rez. Alexie's Indians weren't noble red men or New Age visionquesters; they played in all-Indian basketball tournaments, got drunk on Annie Green Springs wine, lived in cheap HUD houses, and sold fireworks to whites driving in from Spokane. Above all they were, like Alexie himself, sharply ironic and damned funny. Still, the book would probably have quietly faded away were it not for the prime-time charisma of its author. At readings Alexie honed a stage persona that combined fiery liberal outrage with a Will Rogers-like wit. By the late 1990s, having written the script for the movie Smoke Signals, Alexie was preparing to direct a film adaptation of his bestselling novel Indian Killer and doing stand-up comedy.

Reproduced with the permission of the publisher, Viking Penguin. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

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