From the streets of New York City came punk icon and rebellious-extraordinaire Kathy Acker, or so she’s faultily labeled.
In Learning for Revolution, Spencer Drew attempts to eradicate any misconceived labels and visions of Kathy Acker- even now after her unfortunate death due to cancer- in this wonderfully woven book.
Fearlessly, Drew covers Acker’s life, teachings, and argues against claims from a few of Acker’s critics. While making his readers feel as though they grew up alongside Kathy Ackler’s journey through academia, he also injects high doses of analysis on Acker’s most important aspects of her pedagogical model of teaching.
Learning for Revolution is crucial for the preservation of Kathy Acker’s work, which involved deconstructing patriarchy and challenging the oppression of all peoples. Many of the novels Acker published are controversial for “disorientating” and causing readers a form of trauma due to her lack of plot and open-endings, but that’s only essential for her goal. It’s an effective form of deconstruction, pushing readers to think beyond the constrictions of a capitalist society and begin to feel comfortable with things outside the “norm”.
Essentially, Acker is more than an icon. In fact, as Dew says, any such labels “silence[s] the very goals to which her innovative tactics were employed.” Acker began the construction of a whole new community that involved a symbiotic relationship between literature and its readers. Just as she used pieces of literature for her novels, such as Don Quixote and Wuthering Heights, she hoped that her readers would use hers for learning and progressing. So whether you are a Kathy Acker fan or not, Learning for Revolution is a space itself that both aims to project a clearer image of Acker and continues a conversation in finding the best efficient way of incorporating revolutionary perspectives in the classrooms of all schools. I’m sure that after the last few pages, there will be something new taking root in your mind.
Here’s a little gem straight from Learning for Revolution:
“Novelists must be allowed, first by themselves, to say, to make what others perhaps-politicians, community people-cannot say and make; novelists allow themselves to speak contradictions, irrationalities, the actualities of human nature and of nature. To dissent, so to speak, with limitation. To question and so, to open the door for perception and comprehension depends on its width and depth, the more devastating the question is, the greater the comprehension. Perhaps here lies the morality of the novelist.”
- Kathy Acker
For futhering venturing:
Kathy interviews one of her biggest influences- William S. Boroughs:
Neil Gaiman (a good friend) talks a little bit about Kathy Acker in an interview here:
An interview with Kathy Acker for BOMB Magazine: