I Love Dick by Chris Kraus *****

Reading dates: 22 December 2013 – 04 February 2014

After reading my Loitering with Intent review, N— took his comfort book, Martin Amis’ The War Against Cliche and read me a paragraph from the introduction. The text acknowledged a change in literary criticism with the advent of the internet. We have all become critics and our criticism is solely related to our orientation to the book, to whether it works for us or not. But Amis thinks that this is not criticism, for something is lost: the book itself, and its relation to the canon. Fair point Amis, but what if the canon is wrong, or, perhaps, tendentious?

This idea of rules and reference points, and a right way of doing things, is what is broken in Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick. I have never read a book like this one. Yet, it is not totally groundbreaking. If Amis wants me to refer to a canon I will tell you that the genre and style borrows from epistolary literature, especially Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which I studied for my PhD. Kraus, however (and like Sophie Calle but better), plays with fact and fiction, with memoir and novel. Since when has a woman written a libertine novel, which is also a theoretical fiction? Hats off to Kraus, especially as she does so beautifully. The prose is light when it needs to (the letters) and intricate too. There are three pieces within the book that return to my memory: one of Hannah Wilke and her struggle to be an artist when Claes Oldenburg decides and succeeds in erasing part of her life (Dick tried to do the same); one on two paintings by Kitaj and a sublime section on schizophrenia, just before one of the most heart-wrenching endings I have ever read. I wish Dick had killed Chris. That would have been more bearable than what really happens in the book.