reading and reigniting: Chris Kraus’ ‘I Love Dick’ (1997)

the first time i speak confidently about my feelings for Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick, i’m standing at the front of a crowded room. i’m in my second year at uni. this week, everyone’s meant to do a talk on an “innovator” in their field – i.e. i’ve just sat down and watched people talk about the guy that wrote Game of Thrones for thirty minutes – one guy even thought it was a good idea to present on Dan fucking Brown? anyway, after a load of that, i stand up, shove my USB stick into the computer, and pull up my opening slide. this is all it says:

i love dick

the room erupts into laughter. we’re uni students now but i guess the word ‘dick’ is still funny for people who think Dan Brown is any good. i smile politely until the laughter subsides before launching into how important this book really is. the room sits quietly, trying to keep up as i talk my tongue off. once i’m finished, i ask if anyone has any questions – there aren’t any. i’ve startled the Game of Thrones fans into silence and i’m pleased with myself.

i read I Love Dick for the first time in 2013, after seeing Tavi Gevinson speak about it like a shrine at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival. it’s been three years since then and this book still sits on its rightful pedestal amongst every other piece of writing i’ve ever read. the book is an almost-novel, almost memoir (but not entirely, it definitely sticks out somewhere in the middle). the text revolves around a woman named Chris, obsessed with an art critic named Dick: operating as a series of letters from Chris, to Dick, she debriefs her ideas and her obsessions. eventually, this infatuation ends up in rejection, but Chris strives off what she gets out of Dick’s dismissal – instead of falling flat, Chris realises that Dick has been nothing but a surface for her this entire time. her one-sided relationship didn’t require Dick to respond, ever – really, he was just a surface for her to project her art and ideas onto; he worked like a platform for her to find her art again. Dick’s lack of a voice allows Chris to regather her own: to reignite her passion and project it into something.

knowing that Chris’ obsession ends in rejection doesn’t spoil this book – it’s not the relationship between Chris and Dick that makes it what it is. the book isn’t even about her relationship with Dick, it’s about Chris’ relationship with herself – Dick’s dismissal doesn’t spoil how she perceives herself; it fires her up, keeps her going, pushes her harder. as a girl stuck at the beginning of her early twenties, constantly riddled with self-doubt and fiddling with her passions too much, the sound of Chris’ voice in I Love Dick was, and always will be, completely inspiring to me. this book keeps me going when i hit a road block – it taught me how to find my platform; the right way to rip away my privacy for the sake of self-expression.

I Love Dick: i can’t give you a star rating, since you’re the book that’s changed the way i’ve perceived the world for the last three years. but i love you, so let’s hope whoever’s reading this just takes my word for it. read I Love Dick. read it now, tomorrow, next week, this month. read it when you’re done with this. it’s inspiring, igniting, and manages to scare away any Game of Thrones fans (or any other equally immature boys in the wrong degree), through the title alone. what more do you need?

 

all my love,

maddy

 

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