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Don Quixote: A Novel (Acker, Kathy) Paperback – January 18, 1994
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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From the Back Cover
Kathy Acker's Don Quixote is an indomitable woman on a formidable quest: to become a knight and defeat the evil enchanters of modern America by pursuing 'the most insane idea that any woman can think of. Which is to love.'
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But, in spite of it all, wandering haphazardly through this wasteland, Acker's Quixote is still searching for love, communication, and freedom--each and all of which seem to be impossible given human nature and the repressive political, social, and sexual relationships that arise naturally out of our survival-oriented hardwiring for power and domination over others. Patriarchy is to blame for how things are now, but Acker doesn't seem to hold out much hope for how they might be under a matriarchy. Her knight has given up on men, but can't feel the transcendent union she seeks, the transformative love-experience, with women, even if they are safer (safer because she can't truly love them.) Is love a lie, an illusion? Are we condemned to loneliness, silence, despair? Is a retreat into ourselves rather than a quest into the world the only viable road for the seeker now that all roads have been traveled, all leading to the same dead end?
Acker paints a grim--if darkly comic--picture in this anti-classic--a sustained nightmare of violence, perversion, sexuality, and criminality written in the style of assemblage: part dream, part journal, part political rant, all Acker. Like all her texts, *Don Quixote* will offend the morally, sexually, and politically sensitive of every stripe. Acker belongs to no party--she's fiercely and defiantly individualistic. Those dependent on a straightforward narrative will likewise be disappointed. Acker's idea of a novel doesn't include characters with only one identity or events which follow logically in sequence, or even one style of writing. The reader comes across plays, poems, mini-history lessons, rewrites of DeSade and more--it's as if her Don Quixote had put together a scrapbook of all he'd seen and experienced on his quest through Hell.
And yet, while *experimental* literature can all-too-often be clinical and coldly detached in its ironic and metafictional self-consciousness, Acker writes with real heart and a deep, almost willfully naïve, conviction in her own pursuit of the ideals of love, freedom, and art. Acker's despair at not being loved or understood by anyone may indeed be justified by the facts of her (and our collective human) existence, but in *Don Quixote* she has at least communicated the despair shared by all of us fellow quixotes who've suffered the realization of the nature of how things are.
In an earlier review, I claimed *my mother, a demonology* to be Acker's masterpiece, but *Don Quixote* surpasses it as an example of Acker at her best. Disguised as an outrageous parody of a classic, it's a classic in its own right.
Reading and digesting Acker's work can occassionally feel strenuous...this is due to the sheer unconventionality of the novel, but the end result yeilds (often hilarious) new insight and is always worth the effort. The piece is a unique blend of politics and fantasy that is highly entertaining and never mainstream. Highly reccomended.