I love Dick: Epistolary Roman-a-clef, con cojones

“Chris Kraus is a writer, filmmaker, and professor of film at European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Her books include I Love Dick, Aliens & Anorexia, and Torpor.”

That is what Wikipedia tells us. However, I made the mistake of thinking she was just a writer of a fictional novel, I love Dick*, an double entendre for whatever reason I didn’t pick up on until I got home and my boyfriend commented it would be interesting to read on the subway. (That alone should have disqualified me from reading this.) 

As Wikipedia explains better than I can, I Love Dick is

“…an epistolary novel. The text, a series of love letters to an elusive addressee, is anchored firmly in a tradition that can be traced back through Derrida’s La Carte Postale, the letters of Madame de Sévigné (and their immense influence on Marcel Proust), Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses and the letters of Héloise and Abelard, as well as art concret and the confrontational performance art of the 1970s. Its implicit conceit is the connection between the novel (in French, le roman) and romance: I Love Dick manages to be both a sincere lover’s cry and a feminist manifesto… I Love Dick‘s narrator invents a genre she names, variously, “The Dumb Cunt’s Tale”, “lonely girl phenomenology”, and “performative philosophy”, treating, among many other subjects, the paintings of R.B. Kitaj, the correspondence of Gustave Flaubert and Louise Colet, the activism of Jennifer Harbury, and Felix Guattari’s Chaosophy while deconstructing the institution of marriage and the life of the mind.”

I don’t know about all those fnacy-shmancy conceits, etc, but it gives you a good idea of what swirling experience it was, all in the guise of simple narrative love letters. I do know I put it down going: “What the hell was that?” And really, it is a pleasure to be shaken up a bit and have a book take you to a completely unexpected place. Most interesting was the non-fictional nature of it, even while there is a strong performative aspect. The realness of the exposure in these letters is a pleasure beyond voyeurism, as the writer/artist is capable of bringing a wealth of experience and thoughts to a extreme situation (falling passionately in love with a man who is not your husband and beginning an affair with the lukewarm new man). It’s a bit like if Sophie Calle actually had something interesting to say. Oh the cojones.

*I am slightly afraid to see what this does to my incoming search traffic.

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