Crudo by Olivia Laing

I was drawn to Crudo when I saw it’s cover, and read the description – it’s about a summer and a marriage and Brexit and the world generally seeming to fall apart, and a forty year old woman struggling with all of this.

I was drawn to the cover, actually I was repulsed by it. It makes me feel physically sick to look at it. I needed to know what this book was like.

Added to that, there are supportive quotes on the back cover of Crudo by both Viv Albertine, and Jilly Cooper. I am totally sold. What a combo.

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From the back of the book:

Kathy is a writer. Kathy is getting married. It’s the summer of 2017 and the whole world is falling apart.

Olivia Laing radically rewires the novel in a brilliant, funny and emphatically raw account of love in the apocalypse. A Goodbye to Berlin for the twenty-first century, Crudo charts in real time what it was like to live and love in the horrifying summer of 2017, from the perspective of a commitment-phobic peripatetic artist who may or may not be Kathy Acker.

From a Tuscan hotel for the super-rich to a Brexit-paralysed UK, Kathy spends the first summer of her forties trying to adjust to marriage. But it’s not only Kathy who’s changing. Political, social and natural landscapes are all in peril. Fascism is on the rise, truth is dead and the planet’s hotting up. Is it really worth learning to love when the end of the world is nigh? And how do you make art, let alone a life, when one rogue tweet could end it all?

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enjoying the park

I enjoyed Crudo, but it’s a little bit strange… It’s written as though it is Kathy Acker writing it, who is a real person, and there are references throughout the text to work by Kathy Acker. I didn’t know who Kathy Acker was before starting to read Crudo (disgraceful, I know). I’ve since done some reading on her, but maybe it would help to know something about her before starting this book. It reminded me of Autumn by Ali Smith – another book anchored around Brexit, with its references to Pauline Boty.

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From her wikipedia introduction:

Kathy Acker (April 18, 1947 – November 30, 1997) was an American experimental novelist, punk poet, playwright, essayist, postmodernist and sex-positive feminist writer. She was influenced by the Black Mountain School poets, the writer William S. Burroughs, the artist and theoretician David Antin, French critical theory, feminist artists Carolee Schneeman and Eleanor Antin, and by philosophy, mysticism, and pornography.

I’m grateful to Crudo for making me aware of Kathy Acker.

But back to the actual book. Kathy is getting married, to a man much older than herself. She didn’t think she ever would, and she doesn’t seem that enthused about the whole thing, but she feels confident in the love between herself and her nearly husband. Also, the world is falling apart. Its the summer of 2017.

Her husband’s sad eyes upset her but also infuriated her, she detested being responsible for anyone else’s happiness. Like can’t you just figure out what you need and get it? Why do you have to keep asking me?

Oh god, so relatable.

 

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Parts of this story are from Olivia Laing’s life, parts are from Kathy Acker’s life and writing, and parts are pure fiction. It’s a strange mix. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting (and now I can’t even describe what I WAS expecting). The events in the novel are quite small and insignificant – there’s no high drama. It ended up being a quiet novel; though the world events providing the backdrop are high drama and potentially world ending (e.g. the potential for Donald Trump to take us all to our deaths in a nuclear war via a tweet).

Laing wrote it in real time, and the settings and the main events follow what she was doing at the time. It’s interesting to know this now, but I only knew this after I’d finished reading it – I don’t tend to read reviews of books before I read them because I don’t want to have the plot revealed to me.

So overall it’s a bit strange, quite short, interesting in a wider context to do with how it was written and its inspiration, and I would recommend it if it sounds interesting to you at all!

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6 thoughts on “Crudo by Olivia Laing

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