“Blood and Guts in High School” della scrittrice americana Kathy Acker (1947-1997) è considerato essere il libro più rappresentativo della letteratura punk(in inglese punklit o punk lit)genere letterario nato dalla sottocultura punk esplosa in Inghilterra,America e Australia nella seconda metà degli anni’70.
Il genere è maggiormente conosciuto negli ambienti punk e comprende una stringata lista di autori che hanno,in seguito,influenzato letteratura cyberpunk e transgressive fiction,genere letterario confinato all’emarginazione per via delle tematiche anti-sociali in cui i protagonisti infrangono il rigore delle leggi deturpando violentemente ogni codice morale e taboo (basti pensare a”A Clockwork Orange” dello scrittore Anthony Burgess,libro del 1962 ambientato a Londra,riarrangiato per il cinema nel 1971 da Stanley Kubrick).
Più diffusa della letteratura punk è la poesia punk,cui poeti sono spesso musicisti;fra questi Patty Smith,Richard Hell(che ebbe grande influenza sui Sex Pistols),
John Cooper Clarke(d’ispirazione alle maggiori punk bands inglesi come i Joy Division,i Buzzcocks,Elvis Costello,Siouxsie and the Banshees,New Order,i Sex Pistols),Steven Wells(meglio conosciuto come feroce giornalista musicale che poeta punk) e Jim Carroll,poeta e scrittore,da cui autobiografia“The Basketball Diaries“,del 1978,è stato tratto un film onomino nel 1995,con Leonardo DiCaprio.
Kathy Acker,autrice di “Blood and Guts in High School”è forse tra le più note scrittrici bohemian della letteratura punk,fortemente influenzata dalla filosofia,William S. Burroughs(scrittore americano e propulsore della Beat Generation),David Antin(poeta americano),la Teoria Critica Francese (che fa principalmente perno sulle teorie economiche marxiste),la pornografia(cosa per cui la Acker si guadagnerà il titolo di sex positive feminist).I suoi romanzi raccontano di violenza,donne controverse in delicato rapporto con gli uomini,la società,l’amore,l’affermazione e indipendenza sessuale.
(Kathy Acker è anche autrice di un saggio sulla vita e la morte di Pier Paolo Pasolini–My death,my life,by Pier Paolo Paolini).
Blood and Guts in High School,che sto leggendo,è stato scritto nei primi anni del 1970(nel’78 un primo copyright),e pubblicato soltanto nel 1984.La storia racconta di una bambina americana di dieci anni,Janey Smith,che è stata cresciuta in Messico ma ancora giovane verrà spedita dal padre,con cui vive una relazione sessuale,nella città di New York (perchè questi sta frequentando una donna.La madre di Janey sarà morta qualche anno dopo la nascita della bambina).L’incesto tra il padre e la figlia viene raccontato dalla Acker con voluta ironia e mai con fare pietistico(immancabile,tra le righe,la denuncia all’immoralità blasfema del padre,simbolo della decadenza sociale). Janey è chiaramente una bambina in crisi che vede il padre ora come amico e amante,ora come un carnefice verso il quale prova una violenta gelosia immancabilmente scaturitale dal rapporto di questi con una donna,odiosa rivale che insinuerà in lei il tarlo dell’abbandono(tant’è il padre si libererà di lei facendola trasferire a New York appunto).
Il libro,o almeno nella versione che ho,la prima del 1978,è corredato di illustrazioni e ricco di poesie al suo interno,poesie scritte di pugno dalla stessa Janey in cui è evidente il disagio della bambina,il riflesso delle proprie paure,il bisogno di evasione,l’amore infantile che la lega al padre misto al senso di repulsione.
La trama della storia vuole intenzionalmente mettere in risalto l’ambiguità del sentimento americano votato al cattolicesimo e al patriottismo di contro all’abuso di questo sentimento di facciata che si macchia di ripugnanza nelle azioni più abiette e contro ogni morale.
Sotto una parte del libro in cui Janey,che ha già lasciato il Messico per New York,fa riferimento a “La Lettera Scarlatta”,classico della letteratura americana del 1850,dello scrittore Nathaniel Hawthorne,ambientato in Nuova Zelanda durante gli anni del Puritanesimo(diciassettesimo secolo);per chi non lo avesse ancora letto,La Lettera Scarlatta verte sui temi della legalità,il peccato,la colpa,e racconta la storia di Hester Prynne,macchiatasi di aduleterio,condannata ed emarginata dalla società per aver avuto un bambino di cui si rifiuterà rivelare il padre(la lettera scarlatta si riferisce a un marchio,una ‘A’,di fuoco al petto che varrà a indicarla come una peccatrice da cui stare lontani. Hester Prynne verrà accusata proprio dall’uomo,il reverendo della chiesa locale,che l’ha ingravidata e di cui non può rivelare il nome).Per molti versi e per questo rimarcato senso della colpa, Hester Prynne ricorda molto la Katjuša Maslova di Tolstoj nel romanzo Resurrezione(di cui parlerò presto),condannata di un crimine alla corte in cui presiede proprio colui che fu responsabile della sua rovina e miseria,sebbene-diversamente da Nathaniel Hawthorne-Tolstoj fa di questo romanzo storico e sentimentale motivo di espiazione e redenzione.
Di seguito un brano tratto dal romanzo;nella prima parte la Acker approfitta de La lettera scarlatta per sottolineare come tutto,a questo mondo,comprese le idee,sia compromesso da un’unica merce di scambio e valore-il denaro.Di significato la parte finale in cui Janey fa riferimento alla possibilità di amare un uomo che l’ama e di quanto questo-farci l’amore,averlo accanto-significhi per lei.La Acker pone la faccenda in termini strettamente sessuali,alludendo specialmente alla fisicità e carnalità di quest’uomo ipotetico che desidera(Janey ne desidera il cazzo,detta in soldoni).Il riferimento è puramente sessuale e certamente-volutamente provocatorio,mentre trovo proprio in questa carnalità,tanto schietta quanto sincera,quanto di più romantico e puro è possibile pensare dell’amore.
-We don’t have a clue what it is to be male or female, or if there are intermediate genders. Male and female might be fields which overlap into androgyny or different kinds of sexual desires. But because we live in a Western, patriarchal world, we have very little chance of exploring these gender possibilities-Kathy Acker
A book report
We all live in prison.Most of us don’t know we live in prison.
A throng of bearded men,in sad-colored garments,were assembled in front of a gaol.They were waiting for a woman named Hester Prynne to walk out of the gaol.
All of them even the hippies hated Hester Prynne because she was a freak and because she couldn’t be anything else and because she wouldn’t be quiet and hide her freakness like a bloody Kotex and because she was as wild and insane as they come.
Long ago,when Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter,he was living in a society that was more socially repressive and less materialist that ours.He wrote about a wild woman.This woman challenged the society by f****** a guy who wasn’t her husband and having his kid.The society punished her by sending her to gaol,making her wear a red ‘A’ for adultery right on her tits,and excommunicating her.
Nowadays most women f*** around ‘cause f****** doesn’t mean anything.All anybody cares about today is money.The woman who lives her life according to nomaterialistic ideals is the wild antisocial monster;the more openly she does so,the more everyone hates her.
Women today don’t get put in gaol for being bloody pieces of Kotex-only streetwalkers and junkies land up in gaol,gaol-and-law now being a business like any other business-they just starve to death and everyone hates them.Physical and mental murder help each other out.
The society in which I am living is totally fucked up.I don’t know what to do.I am just one person and I’m not very good at anything.I don’t want to live in hell my whole life.If I knew how this society got so fucked-up,if we all knew,maybe we’d have a way of destroying hell.I think that’s what Hawthorne thought.He set his story in the time of the fist Puritans: the first people who came to the northern North American shore and created the society Hawthorne lived in,the society that created the one we live in today.
Another reason Hawthorne set his story in the past (in lies) was ‘cause he couldn’t say directly all the wild things he wanted to say.He was living in a society to which ideas and writing still mattered.In ‘The Custom House’,the introduction to The Scarlet Letter,Hawthorne makes sure he tells us the story of The Scarlet Letter occurred long time ago and has nothing to do with anyone who’s now living. After all,Hawthorne had to protect himself so he could keep writing.Right now I can speak as directly as I want ‘cause no one gives a s*** about writing and ideas,all anyone cares about is money.Even if one person in Boise,Idaho,gave half-a-s***,the only book Mr Idaho can get his hands on is a book the publishers,or rather the advertisers(‘cause all businessmen are now advertisers) have decided will net half-a-million in movie and/or TV rights. A book that can be advertised.Define culture that way.
You see,things are much better nowadays than in those old dark repressed Puritan days:anybody can say anything today;progress does occur.
It’s possible to hate and despise and detest yourself ‘cause you’ve been in prison so long.It’s possible to get angrier and angrier.It’s possible to hate everything that isn’t wild and free. A girl is wild who likes sensual things: doesn’t want to give up things being alive: rolling in black fur on top of skin ice-cold water iron crinkly leaves seeing three brown branches against branches full of leaves against dark green leaves through this the misty grey wanders in garbage on the streets up to your knees and unshaven men lying under cocaine piled on top of cocaine colours colours everything happening! one thing after another thing!
…you keep on going,there are really no rules: it doens’t matter to you whether you live or die,but every now and then there’s a kind of territory and you might get stuck that’s OK too if you really don’t give a s***,but who doens’t give a s***! Loving everything and rolling in it like it’s all gooky s*** goddamnit make a living grow up no you don’t want to do that.
The Massachussetts seacoast in the middle of the seventeenth century looked the same as it does now:WILD. Trees and bushes an weeds and wind and water.Trees and bushes and wind and water are always moving every moment the whole world is a totally different world air rides over shivering water so those water areas shiver harder grow darker below the water hit the sharper rocks harder splash! foam appears. And disappears.
My father told me the day after he tried to rape me that security is the mos important thing in the world.I told him sex is the most important thing in the world and asked him why he didn’t f*** my mother. In Hawthorne’s and our materialistic society the acquisition of money is the main goal ‘cause money gives the power to make change stop,to make the universe die; so everything in the materialistic society is the opposite of what it really is.Good is bad. Crime is the only possible behavior.
Hetster Prynne,Hawthorne tells us ,had wanted to be a good girl. I remember I wanted to be a good girl for my father.Her loving husband sent her to the New World to prepare a way for him. Traveling in those days was dangerous –there were no roads- and her husband never showed up. Two years passed.Hester was being a good dead girl. Suddenly a little unsuspected ecstatic crazy-making overtaking wildness like a big King Viper spreading his hood,rising up and spreading overtaking everything, that’s what love’s like,snake-insane rose up in Hester she f*****. Pregnancy made her wildness or evil (that’s the religious word for wildness) public. The child was the sign of her nastiness and disintegration and general insanity.
Hawthorne gives us a description of motherhood in the fucked-up society: All the people around Hester hate her and despise her and think she’s total freak. The kid’s beyond human law and human consideration. How do you feel about yourself when every human being you hear and see and smell every day of your being thinks you’re worse than garbage? Your conception of who you are has always, at least partially, depended on how the people around you behaved towards you. You sense the people around you aren’t right: what you did, your need, you weren’t defying them to defy them, it was your need, was OK. You don’t know. How can you know anything? How can you know anything? You begin to go crazy.
Hester’s just stepping out of prison ,out of prison, but this is worse: huge staring eyes,whispers,her child laughed at, mocked, she’s a woman, this isn’t reality, the eyes turn around and around she can’t be who she is, when suddenly she sees her long-lost husband.
This husband is now called Roger Chillingworth.
The cops are screaming at Hester: ‘You hideous woman.’ ‘Look at the hideous woman.’ ‘Who did the hideous woman f***?’ ‘You’re such a nice hideous woman,we know you didn’t mean to do the tremendously horrible thing you did,just pretty please tell us who you f*****. We know what’ll make you feel better.’
Hester’s husband’s a scholar. A scholar is a top cop ‘cause he defines the roads by which people live so they won’t get in trouble and so society will survive. A scholar is a teacher. Teachers replace living dangerous creating whit dead ideas and teach these ideas as the history and meaning of the world. Teachers torture kids . Teachers teach you intricate ways of saying one thing and doing something else.
The top cops start laughing at and mocking Hester and telling the crowd to laugh at and mock Hester ‘cause she won’t tell them who her baby’s father is. Hester’s acting out of love.
This husband, being a teacher, is a zombie and a ghoul. He sees his wife being tortured by lots of people, he sees his wife in pain and agony, he sees his wife nursing a strange kid,and he doesn’t feel anything. He just wonders, intellectually wonders, who the kid’s father is.
A final scene focuses this swirling horror. The young handsome Reverend who everyone thinks is gentle, honest, and kind takes up the spreading mockery and hatred and vomiting and says to Hester: ‘You are the worst piece of trash-cunt whoever live, no one will ever ever love you, there will be no more love in your life because, mainly because, you won’t tell us who your bastard’s father is.’ Hester can’t reply ‘cause the guy who’s screming at her is the guy who fuc*** her. How can HE scream at her? All that she has left of the world : her memories disappear. Do you understand what reality is? She begins to go crazy…
Boppy doppy doopy wah yahyah mm. Is that what you think craziness is? Are you scared you’re going crazy? Do people who go crazy freak you? Look sweetheart.
I woke up in my attic that the winds swept through and all the world was grey and black. I saw pine trees covering the grey sky and sea, tall trees, boats, tall trees, boats.
I walked along the highway. I was looking for a place to sit down, for some grass I could walk in, for a wood I could explore. I walked for hours. All the land on both sides of the highway, cultivated and wild, was private. I had to keep walking on the highway. I thought that people today when they move move only on roads. They perceive only the roads, the map, the prison. I think it’s becoming harder to get off the road.
I live on a desert island. It’s a nice desert island. I like it here. This is what I do: I eat; I sleep; when it rains and gets cold,I hide under some rocks. I like it here. But I am getting bored… What can I do? I can repeat what I see. I can draw this old grey trunk and make it look different. People got cures for polio and syphilis by imagining. People have and can change the world. In the beginning, on the desert island, the world is totally beautiful. Today in my room in New York City the world is horrible and disgusting. What the hell happened?
I don’t want to be a slave, I don’t want to be a whore, I don’t want to be lonely and without love for the rest of my long life. I’ve got to find out how I got so fuc***-up.
Hester and her husband are sitting, after the torture, in her prison cell. Her husband has come inside to make her well again. He’s a doctor.
‘Fuc**** Is the most wonderful thing in the world’. Hester is crazy.
‘I want to fuc* you right now’,her husband replies.
‘Ugh.I wouldn’t fuc*you if you were the last man on earth. You make me sick to my stomach.’
A slight grimace crosses his face,but he manages to suppress it.
‘Remember when we used to fuc*? By the fireside in Amsterdam.’ Tears appear in his thin eyes. ‘You’d lay your head on my lap and we’d look into the fire.’
Hester’s thinking the most wonderful thing in the world is to fuc* a man you love. God she wishes she had it right now. Loving a man and being right next to him: naked against him there’s no need to talk: naked wet warm his face his skin naked wet warm his thick lips glazed eyes you’re on top of him naked wet warm never let you go the peace of the world never never never.
‘I’m the guilty one,’the husband says. ‘If I hadn’t sent you alone to America, you never would’ve done this horrible inhuman thing.’
‘Oh, I am the guilty one.’
‘I hate you now. I don’t even hate you. I just want nothing to do with you. You’re not to reveal that you have ever known me or had anything to do with me. Whatever love and affection occurred between us is now dead. We’re dead people.’
Fuc**** with love must be the gift of God. His eyes his nose his hot breath the shadow under his neck his thick arms the fat around his sides the bones sticking out of his thighs his coc*waving in that mess of hair I want him so much I am going crazy. I want his eyes I want his nose I want his hot breath reeking all over my body I want to stick my tongue in neck I want his arms around me I’ve forgotten what it’s like to want a man I roll my hands in his fat and bite it and rub my dying-to-come hips against the bones sticking out of his thighs so maybe I’ll come that way his coc*, if I could just touch his coc* just for a second, I don’t want to touch it more than that, a quick kiss, wet and slimy, don’t take me away from it, don’t take me away from it you creep meanie: this is my home.
‘Who’s your brat’s father?’
‘I love him. I am not going to tell you who he is.’
‘I am going to find out who he is. I am simply interested who he is. I am one of the most brilliant men in America and Europe and can learn anything. I’m going to find out who he is!’.
She shivers before this example of the divorcement of body and mind. She’s seeing terror and hatred and hypocrisy beginning to spread over the earth.
‘Don’t you tell anyone who I am.’
WHEN SOMEONE’S IN PAIN,HE CRIES OUT.
Taken from “Blood and Guts in High School” by Kathy Acker