Saturday, September 27, 2008

Kathy Acker

Stravinsky and Dylan Thomas were to write an opera together but Thomas drank himself to death before they could begin. Stravinsky wrote that this was "a terrible blow to me as well as to all those who knew Dylan Thomas's genius."  Stories of creations unmade, like this one, always seem so insufferably sad to me.  Even though we did receive In Memoriam Dylan Thomas out of the tragedy, what might have come? 

I have my own story along these lines, an opera unborn, hardly at the same culture-defining level and probably not even a real possibility, but important to me OK, goddamn it, and such a source of regret.  Unknown to me, Carla Harryman invited her buddy Kathy Acker to the original production of Little Girl back in '95.  I didn't see her until the end of the performance, at which point I ran up to her. Erling: Ms. Acker, I'm a huge fan of yours (quoting from Blood and Guts in High School) "Her father's touch is cold, he doesn't want to touch her mostly 'cause he's confused. Janey fucks him even though it hurts her like hell 'cause of her Pelvic Inflammatory Disease." I'm so happy you came. Kathy: (doe-eyed) I'm a big fan of yours too. 

Well, maybe the doe-eyed bit is an exaggeration, but I told her I wanted to work on something together and she said yes in the way people do when they are invited to go to Budapest for the May-December wedding of The Accordionist, the National Hero, and they say yes, sure, knowing that they aren't really going to go but, at that moment, really wanting to go, imagining it, thinking that it could actually happen.  For months after, the thought rattled around in my head without ceasing and, a number of times, I picked up the phone to get her number from Carla but then put it off, partially because my possessive mistress at the time didn't trust Ms Acker, saying she had stolen someone-or-other's husband or boyfriend or whatever but, all the time, not knowing that the cancer that would kill her was already growing in her breast - and then she died.  A terrible blow to me. What would have come from it?
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