Post Road Magazine #28

I Love Dick by Chris Kraus

Cari Luna

Yes, I know. The title. It's delicious in a way, isn't it? But, yeah, I hesitated to read the book in public. I found myself hiding its cover in my lap as I read it on the playground while my kids played, or on the bus. I placed it facedown, its spine turned toward the wall, whenever I set it down. That edge of self-consciousness I felt when reading the book, the awareness of the sharp double entendre of the title, was a part of the experience of reading I Love Dick. Had I read it without its cover, or if I'd read an eBook version, I wouldn't have had that discomfort and hyperawareness of myself as a woman reading a book with I LOVE DICK on the cover. And that discomfort? It echoed and underlined Kraus's discomfort and self-awareness in the text.

For the record, the eponymous Dick is a person, Kraus's love interest. I Love Dick is part epistolary, part diary, and deeply confessional. It begins when Kraus and her husband, Sylvère, have dinner with his colleague, Dick, and end up spending the night at Dick's home. Kraus believes Dick has been flirting with her over the course of the evening, and in the morning determines that she and Dick have experienced a "Conceptual Fuck." She becomes infatuated with him, and then falls in love with him, though after that one night, he is entirely absent. She falls in love with him, or with the idea of him, on her own. She shares this with Sylvère, and the two begin writing letters to Dick over a short, frenzied period. These letters, which become a sort of art project between the married couple, comprise the bulk of the text.

I Love Dick is memoir (maybe), it's polemic, it's epistolary fiction (maybe), it's couples therapy acted out through laptop and fax machine. It's a woman breaking her marriage down in the pursuit of a man, her sexuality, her identity. But no. . . even as I try to pin it down, objections arise. It's not really Kraus breaking her marriage down. The marriage was already stalled out, at least sexually, before the story began. "Because they are no longer having sex," Kraus writes, "the two maintain their intimacy via deconstruction: i.e., they tell each other everything." In fact, it is Kraus's obsession with Dick that rekindles their sexual relationship, at least temporarily. But the obsession is not about her husband.

What I love most about this book: Kraus realizes, as does the reader, that her obsession with Dick has nothing to do with him. It isn't about him, either. He was the cipher, the object of desire necessary to set the whole exploration of self in motion. She purports to love Dick, but he is nothing more than catalyst. This book, be it novel or memoir or some hazy middle ground, is about a woman named Chris Kraus, and her journey by way of (what feels like, and so what functions as) brutally honest self-exposure.

Kraus writes: "WHO GETS TO SPEAK AND WHY. . . IS THE ONLY QUESTION." In I Love Dick, Kraus speaks boldly, baldly, and often out of turn. She lays herself absolutely bare. She made me uncomfortable sometimes, until I wanted to cringe, to look away. But I didn't. And in the end I was left having witnessed and explored one woman's lived experience in a way that was profoundly new.

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