Kathy is a writer. Kathy is getting married. It’s the summer of 2017 and the whole world is falling apart.
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 making a lifelong commitment as Trump is tweeting the world into nuclear war. 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 is 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?
I picked up this book because it was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize, one of my favorite literary awards. I had already tried and put down a Cusk book (her writing just isn’t for me) so this was my second try at finally reading a winner (alas, that didn’t happen, either).
It took me a while to get used to this book and the writing. I was on high alert, looking for all kinds of Prizeworthy! things, but I should have let myself sink into prose and not worry so much. When I was finally able to do that, aided by a big fuzzy blanket and a hot water bottle, the pages flew by.
The main draw here is the writing, and there’s just barely enough plot to keep me interested. We follow the narrator through the summer of 2017 as the book acts as a snapshot of that scary, uncertain time. (We are still in scary, uncertain times, but it’s nice to think at least some of it is past us, don’t you think?) It brought back some vivid memories for me, worded more beautifully than I could ever manage.
I see why Crudo was shortlisted and why so many people love it. I was able to enjoy it once I got used to the writing style, and holy cow what writing, but not enough to tip it into four stars.