I saw this book everywhere I went, online and off, and so seeing a copy in Waterstones the other day, I picked it up – avoiding my aversion to usual contemporary writing:
Kathy is a writer. Kathy is getting married. It’s the summer of 2017 and the whole world is falling apart.
Olivia Laing radically rewires the novel in a brilliant, funny and emphatically raw account of love in the apocalypse. A Goodbye to Berlin for the twenty-first century, Crudo charts in real time what it was like to live and love in the horrifying summer of 2017, from the perspective of a commitment-phobic peripatetic artist who may or may not be Kathy Acker.
From a Tuscan hotel for the super-rich to a Brexit-paralysed UK, Kathy spends the first summer of her forties trying to adjust to making a lifelong commitment as Trump is tweeting the world into nuclear war. But it’s not only Kathy who’s changing. Political, social and natural landscapes are all in peril. Fascism is on the rise, truth is dead and the planet is hotting up. Is it really worth learning to love when the end of the world is nigh? And how do you make art, let alone a life, when one rogue tweet could end it all?
I knew little of Kathy Acker going into this, and at first was put off by her character. She seemed at first pretentiously rebellious in a childish sort of way. As the book progressed however, I felt that intentionally or otherwise she developed into view as a more helpless character than first came across. She was lost in a world which she seemed aware to have little direction. A world where, as the above says, a rogue tweet could end it. How could she take life seriously if the situation rested on two men acting like children showing off their toys?
The book felt very much like a modern Beat writer. It was reminiscent of the generation of raw honesty and graphic writing, only in this context I could relate so much more – the rediculousness of the world being talked about being one not so long ago – last year in face. The absurdity or Brexit, Trump, and nuclear showmanship being not something alien to any of us.
Throughout actual quotes for Kathy Acker are used, and these are, as the title suggests, raw. Brutal in a manner which some people won’t be able to deal with.
The book is written in a manner which was at time difficult to read – disjointed and switching between first and third person. Perhaps this created a chaotic atmosphere which the writer intended however, chaotic and disjointed being the time in which it was set.
I think this book as necessary if nothing else. A needed revival of honesty in the face of what the world is becoming – an apocalyptic cartoon – a cultural cul-de-sac.