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Kathy Acker's Don Quixote, which explores and pushes the boundaries of gender and sexual identity, certainly shocks the system, as Acker intends it to. This book is full of cuss words, "low-brow" language, and graphic, even crude, sexual encounters. Part of this seems to be purely for shock value; however, I understand that this almost violent assault of language also complements the content of this novel, which looks rather extensively at the connection between violence and sexuality.
I found the content of this novel highly engaging and really enjoyed the way that Acker takes some of the classic male-centric plots, such as Cervante's Don Quixote and Shaw's Pygmalion, and retells them from a gender-deconstructionalist view point. Though purposefully extreme, I found Acker's conversation with the literary tradition that preceded her exceptionally interesting, especially having read some of the original texts that she references, such as Pygmalion. This was probably one of my favourite elements of the novel.
In its telling, Don Quixote is very surreal, and it can be a little difficult to orient yourself while reading. The physical reality, though usually present in the novel, is not always clear, as Acker often goes into mock-academic, almost essay-like passages. A lot of the novel seems very in-the-mind, and sometimes it's unclear whether or not events are imagined or happening in the fictive present.
All this aside, the reading experience is, for the most part, pleasurable. And some of the passages are written with absolutely gorgeous language, for which I have a soft spot. Toward the end of the novel, I did begin to get a little tired of all the cuss words and graphic sexuality, but I think that this feeling is inevitable as Acker is consciously working to bring readers out of their comfort zones and works with some of the most taboo elements of society, such as abortion.
Overall, I think that this novel has its fine points and is definitely worth reading if you are interested in gender deconstruction, pro-sex feminism, and issues surrounding love and loneliness. I'm glad to have read it and can see myself reading it again in the future, if only to gain a greater grasp of the complex material. I have no way of giving this novel a star rating at this point, and would not recommend it to anyone who shies away from swearing and graphic sexuality in fiction, but suffice it to say that I found it a worth-while and informative read.