Sunday, 2 July 2017

I Love Dick by Chris Kraus   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
First published in 1997, long before Knausgaard or Heti, this novel was a well-placed detonation beneath the wall dividing memoir and fiction. Ostensibly an account of Kraus’s all-consuming middle-aged crush on a man she has met only briefly and who has seemingly done nothing to encourage her obsession, the first half of the book consists of a hilarious compilation of letters addressed to ‘Dick’ by Kraus and her husband, with whom she plays a hugely ironic game of cultural and psycho-social toe-to-toe positioning. Following the delivery of the great mass of letters to ‘Dick’, Kraus and her husband separate and Kraus continues to pursue the passive ‘Dick’, who remains a tabula rasa for her projections, until he becomes little more than a ‘dear diary’ figure, recipient of essay-letters concerning art and cultural theory. Kraus pursues her ‘crush’ through a maze of received social constructs and gender-role expectations with a snide irony that both deepens and ridicules the pathos of her rather abject attempts to ‘possess’ ‘Dick’. A letter from the ‘real’ Dick at the end implies that the liaisons recounted in the second half of the book are entirely fictional, and that Kraus has used her projected ‘Dick’ as a sort of catalyst to examine and make changes in her personal and artistic life. In any quest for authenticity, each manifestation of the personal is a struggle with the demands of form. Here, Kraus forces the bourgeois genre of the epistolary novel to burst from interior pressure to allow the first person to penetrate from the letters into the more empowering narratorial frame.

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