I Love Dick–Chris Kraus

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I fell in love with the Amazon Prime series starring Kevin Bacon and Katherine Hahn.  Each episode left me slightly uncomfortable and seen.  When the season ended and Katherine Hahn (Chris) was walking away from Kevin Bacon (Dick) with blood streaming down her leg, I needed to know what happened next, what was missing, as something is always missing in the transition from text to screen.

Kraus’ book, not a novel, not memoir, is even more chaotic than the Amazon Prime series.  Kraus divides the book into two parts–“Scenes from a Marriage” and “Every Letter is a Love Letter.”  In the opening pages, Chris falls in love with Dick over dinner and explains why she begins writing him letters.  “What sex is better than drugs, what art is better than sex?  Better than means stepping out into complete intensity….It’s about not giving a fuck, or seeing all the consequences looming and doing something anyway.”  And she does.  She is 40, her most recent film has been rejected, she has not had sex with her husband for over a year, and she steps into an epistolary relationship with Dick and herself.  She loses herself in lust, in her sexuality.  From her sexuality she rediscovers her intellectual power.  She moves from writing about her desire for Dick to her analysis of paintings, reflections of desire of other women, the plight of all women.  As she speaks to herself via Dick, her diary, she asks “Who gets to speak and why?….is the only question.”  Through a Dick projected onto an authoritative art figure, Chris finds her voice.  Towards the end of the book, Chris turns to schizophrenia and semiotics.  In a neat loop back to the beginning of her affair with herself via Dick, she writes, “I think desire isn’t lack, it’s surplus energy—a claustrophobia inside your skin.”  Once Chris began writing, her desire flowed despite rejection from its muse, despite her own flights of hesitation.  Her desire led her to create something new, even while she writes that “no matter where you go, someone else has been before.”

Having read the book on which the Amazon Prime series was based, I’m left hoping for a second season that moves beyond her desire for Dick into her discovery of herself.  The broken, rejected Chris walking away from Dick is not the end of Chris’ story. I hope it will not be the end of the series.

Finished 10/1/17

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