If there's a book that hovers in my periphery each time I step inside a bookstore (which is everyday) then Chris Kraus' "I Love Dick" is it. When finally I faced it head on I only wish I'd done so a lot sooner. Hers is a voice I'd never heard before but that immediately sounded familiar. A voice hitting each pressure point of the hyperexclusice male dominated art world, of the time wasted in seeking your own identity through other people, and--of course--Dick, a mutual friend of the narrators husband whom she falls in love with on page 1.
The book veers towards an epistolary format. Soon, however, the letters form more of a diary, then, finally, its own independent art project. Intros such as "I'm not sure I still want to fuck you. At least, not in the same way [...] There's nothing so remarkable in one more woman adoring you. It's a 'problem' you're confronting all the time. I'm just a particularly annoying one, one who refuses to behave" pull the narrative cord taut, flashing introspection into our 39 year old female artist mindset. Do not mistake this for a 'woe-is-me' diatribe. The already taut cord frequently snaps--"and it got late and someone turned on some vintage disco, and all the people young enough never to've heard these songs the first time round got up and danced"--and stings--"[...] the songs that played in topless clubs and bars in the late '70s while these men were getting famous"--and lands hard--"[...] while me and all my friends, the girls, were paying for our rent and shows and exploring 'issues of our sexuality' by shaking to them all night long in topless bars"--until you forget there's supposed to be a Dick at the end of these letters. Anything resembling a two-way correspondence fades out before you hit the half way mark.
Throughout the chapters Kraus threads topics such as growing up in New Zealand, schizophrenia, and critiquing art critique. If that sounds all over the place, well, yes it is. The talent lies in Kraus' voice: a trustworthy stream of consciousness we follow smoothly, never falling into a droll lecturing tone.
Dick as a whole represents the achey jostle of unrequited adoration. More than that he encapsulates the entirety of "I know better than this" as if we really can control who we fall for. And, of course, the thrill--and fun (and pain)--of falling is knowing better but being wildly disappointed in all we know. We only say we know better when it's evident we don't know enough.