A portrait of the chaotic and seamy underside of San Francisco's Mission district in which the narrator Jesse 'dabbles in perversity' with frightening abandon. The writing is exquisitely real, exhilarating while the book explores themes of self-annihilation, sex as a substitute for love, violence and power and how the main character, drawn to people who screw her over, finds self sabotage a transgressive act. Not for the faint-hearted.
Written in the late 1970s, Blood and Guts in High School was met with widespread shock, outrage, and acclaim upon its initial publication in 1984, and remains Acker's seminal work. Via fraught dialogue, hand-written poetry, crude illustrations, and prison journals (with Jean Genet himself even emerging as a central character), the literary pillars of youth, desire, punk, and feminism all collapse in Acker's wake. What emerges is a voice that not only reshaped the avant-garde, but whose impact is still being felt across literature as a whole (as evidenced by Chris Kraus' biography, After Kathy Acker, also published last month.)