new-york

Laura Parnes

Participant Inc.

Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School (1978) is a messy novel filled with nihilistic divagations and high-theory musings, juvenile drawings of cunts and cocks, unstable characters on a bombastic path of nonbecoming. Genet has a lengthy cameo, as does Jimmy Carter; there’s a character named Mr. Blowjob. For all the dialogic chaos, it’s an easy text to thematize, to reduce to some glib scrawl lifted from some po-mo bad-girl diary. When putting the book to another medium, one could imagine any number of ways to make vulgar and vapid the pensive, difficult texts, subtexts, and intertexts that, when woven together, give the novel its gravity and callow charm.

Laura Parnes manages to sidestep such pitfalls in her fifty-minute video “inspired by” (and titled after) Acker’s novel. Rather than reconstruct or “adapt” the book, she distills it, quoting snippets of dialogue and fragments of text

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