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Blood and Guts in High School: A Novel Paperback – January 11, 1994

3.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Acker was a pioneer of postmodern fiction
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1st Evergreen Ed edition (January 11, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080213193X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802131935
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I disagree with a number of the previous reviewers. I think Acker uses her style effectively to drive a point home. She is rewriting the canon from a perspective of pain and oppression and her way of doing this is by attacking the very language that aids in her oppression. Janie must relearn language in her own way, hence we watch this process begin through drawings and a relaearning of the alphabet and finally a reconstruction and retelling of well known tales (e.g. The Scarlet Letter). Rather than being only dark and painful, I found the end to be somewhat uplifting by offering a glimmer of hope through the banding together of society's castoffs. It's a difficult book, but I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in seeing what happens when an author attempts to rewrite a personal history and in doing so urges us all to deconstruct our own narratives.
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Format: Paperback
The previous reviews have said that smart people like it and dumb people don't; I don't think that's true. Someone else said that it should be thrown on the floor because it's filth. I don't think that's true either.

I think that Acker had a gift for writing, but she let her obsession with sex and her need to shock get in the way of it. Several parts in this book shine with something that seems very real and honest - the part about getting an abortion ("I love it when men take care of me"); her detailed interpretation of The Scarlet Letter; the sections where she discusses the fact that women writers are plagiarists, because they can only use the words that men have written before them, for centuries.

But in between all of these flashes of brilliance is a lot of monotonous c-words and f-words and endless repetition of sexual humiliation. It's my opinion that if she had left most of that out, she could have been a great and major writer. Not because I'm morally opposed to the vulgarity, but because it's really boring after awhile. So it's ironic that the extreme vulgarity of her work is probably what made her famous - she attracted attention with shock value, but her work is ultimately, in my view, weakened by the shocking aspect of it.

I thought one quote of Janey's, where she's talking to Jean Genet, explains pretty well why Acker persisted in writing obscene scenes:

"I know where we're travelling, Genet, and I know why we're travelling there. It's not just to travel, but it's so those others who kicked me out have a chance of being at peace, having a chance of knowing the land of the monster without going there.

Genet: Do you think that's possible?"

I think Genet's question is the central one to ask of all of Acker's works.
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Format: Paperback
Janey is a little girl wandering through a fantasy landscape of men who reject her-- her father, Jean Genet, the Persian Slave Trader, Tommy. This is a book communicating a world of pain-- the dialogues in the beginning between Janey and her father as he prepares to leave her for someone else carry the weight of the agony of someone being betrayed by someone so close and all the little lies and tricks we use to pull closer and push away. It's also a book about illness. Janey constantly has pain and infections and disease that cripple her, but she always pushes the physical pain to one side to focus on the men who she knows from the beginning are going to leave her.
It is not the easiest book in the world to read-- the emotion, rather than the plot, is the thread that ties the book together. There's a section in the book which is a series of drawings by Janey that provide a map to her dreams. I used this map to give the reading experience a kind of structure and I found that thinking about the book as a dream landscape made the lack of narrative much less jarring.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is a certain point where you love punk and transgressive literature. It might last a few months or a few years, but it's shortly after you stop believing everything everyone tells you and before you discover your personality and how to best integrate it into society at large. In this time period, you should read books like The Catcher in the Rye, go to midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and listen to music that involves a lot of shouting and all the language that your parents would hate.

In that time period, this is the kind of book that you might love. It's vulgar. It's disgusting. It's in your face without apologies. The protagonist starts by talking about how disappointed she is that she no longer gets to have sex with her father. A few pages later she's talking about her abortions. There are several illustrations of genitalia. Midway through the book, there are doodles.

For some (of the age of rebellion and self-discovery) this may be a revelation and one of those books that defines one's youth. However, if you have already gone through that time period and you are looking for something more substantial than in-your-face attacks, this book can be a tedious exercise in excess. In fact, it stops being interesting around page 40 and gets quite boring in its repetitive use of abortions and tumors and sexual abuse. So while some might like it, most should probably steer clear. It has energy but no style.
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