I Love Dick
I had mixed feelings while reading Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick. On the one hand, there is an empowerment of woman, on the other there is an obvious removal of power and non-consensual relationship formed. Her careful understanding as a writer allowed her to blur lines, break tradition, and force the reader into these uncomfortable positions. But what does that really mean for the reader?
For me, I had to confront my confusion. I had to decide that both the praise and the criticism is deserved and can be felt at the same time. Kraus remarks consistently throughout her book on sexism. The entire book is based on a real situation and the characters are not fictional (though as an auto-fiction, some parts must have been altered or edited). Dick Hebdige, a real-life cultural critic, did not consent to the letters, the fantasies, the book being published. And yet, she published it as it was, with his response included.
What does that say about boundaries and respect? Had it been reversed (a man harassing a woman, publishing this work) a lot of people would be up in arms and not praising its self-empowerment. This is something that I think we have to remember. Feminism is the equality between the sexes. The general consensus in doing so is to lift the woman to power and equal rank, not digging one under. And though this piece of literature does an interesting job at calling attention to this inequality, it should be noted that Kraus's book is built on rejecting the wishes of a major party involved in the story of the book by publishing the piece.
However, outside of this criticism, the book is an amazing use of form and genre blending. Combining memoir and fiction she uses epistolary, critical theory, essay, and mocking to create a piece that is self-aware and consciously attempting to speak to the reader. There is no doubt why it is considered an interdisciplinary point of reference for artists. This consistent letter writing to a secondary person that doesn’t respond until the end reminds me very much of Eminem’s “Stan” song. The characters both border or ride through obsession and are affected by their own writing of the letters. Though I can’t speak on whether Eminem ever read this book, I Love Dick can be read in conversation with many works. Including Claudia Rankine’s Citizen.
Citizen makes reference to the power behind the work “I”. So much so that the book instead uses “you” as a marker. Kraus, instead, uses “I”. It can be seen as powerful marker in transformation through the self-reflective power of the word.
She mentions that the female as public is revolutionary. By creating and publishing this book (aside from criticism), the use of first person narrative, and journey of self-revelatory transformation, she publicizes her female body. And that is revolutionary. And that is power.