The Debasement Tapes
Chris Kraus's disarmingly direct fiction
In Chris Kraus’s novel Torpor (2006), the protagonist Sylvie remarks to an all-male group of intellectuals, including her husband, that there are no women on the list of writers they’re putting together for a cross-cultural literary tour. No one knows any of the “dowdy” lesbians that Sylvie has put forward, so they settle on Kathy Acker. There is little debate. “Of course, thinks Sylvie, if there has to be a woman, Acker would be it. Her books seduce and challenge heterosexual men; her photos just seduce them. . . . Why could the famous artist men be friends, the women just competitors? Was sex still the only passport to success if you were straight and female?”
Acker, Sylvie decides, understood that artistic success is based on creating a myth, and “female myths don’t run in groups”—they come as tokens.
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