Dec 18, 2015 11:50AM

Oyster Book Club: Cook Suck Reviews 'I Love Dick' By Chris Kraus

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Hi everyone! Welcome to our very first book club. Pull up a cushion, help yourself to some ambiguous dips, and grab your copy of Chris Kraus' I Love Dick 'cause things are about to get ~intellectual~.

We've gone ahead and actualised your New Year's resolution to read more and use new words in sentences sporadically by starting a fully serious book club. Food critic and good writer Cook Suck will be responsible for dissecting all the books you're going to read over the coming months. The first novel we've selected is Chris Kraus' very meta sort of memoir I Love Dick. Take it away, Cook Suck.

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NB: This text is an ongoing series I will be writing for Oyster on a series of predominantly contemporary literature (hopefully some local work as well, email us!). Novel #1 is Chris Kraus' I Love Dick. Written in 1997, there are strong themes within this novel I won't be touching, mainly because it's the internet, I don't have the time, it's 2015 and I'm a white privileged male. Also I categorise this novel as fictional roman à clef, not a memoir, or theoretical fiction, or whatever, so all character commentary is to be taken with that in mind.

Author Chris Kraus is a film maker — her latest piece is dead in the water, flailing in production hell, somewhat like Houellebecq's Sandra in Submission — a bird in an oil slick retaining her ability to flap her wings and a self-aware, self-described hag. Her husband is Sylvère, a line and length career lecturer, the Glenn McGrath of 80-90s academia. He's obtusely aware of his wife's average fortunes, acutely in denial of his own privilege, and a subtle emotional coward.

Enter Dick, a fleeting mutual friend — the three of them have drinks and head back to Dick's for a bit of a kick on. Chris falls in love with Dick and from the next morning, the love manifest itself into a sort of art project of letters and essays rabidly written and sent to Dick. She shares the project with Sylvère — his letters, whilst written with the same kind of fervour, have a subtext of self-control which is somewhat gender-based, a kind of boy's club. "Oi, how's Chris, has she lost it or what, mate?" It's pivotal that Chris and Sylvère don't fuck anymore and haven't for many years, it's sort of hard to explain why, but at some point he's off giving a lecture on Proust and anyone who reads Proust without having a gun pointed to their head is, let's put it this way, decisively hetero-asexual.

Navigating I Love Dick is quite difficult. At times, Chris comes across as a rambling bitch who's just too smart for her own good, and so deeply burned at her bottom rung standing amongst her peers — Sylvère, the late 20th century art world. She's a wannabe NY Kike Witch, but she had no hand in getting a Jim Morrison hooked on smack, so in her eyes, she's a total failure. The unsolicited desire directed towards Dick is just a total crisis and rebirth — she's about to turn 40, he's a bit of a lightweight vagrant, an incidental player, a loner in the desert. The perfect object of desire.

Every Letter Is a Love Letter

Desire is wide, vast, an epic; yet requires only the faintest breeze of subject. Desire manifests, it is the unsolicited Dick pic, it's the entire bucket of KFC, it's sex in a club toilet, it's state-sponsored genocide, it's conception, abortion, life and maybe but probably not love, it can be everything and mean nothing, entirely bound to competing subjects  to Kraus, initially, it is powerful, societally fibrillating, transient yet a totally heedless cry.

Or is it? Unhinged desire is cruel, Dick doesn't want a part of any of this, not really anyway, he's nonchalant and they do eventually fuck in a way that's such a glory hole event it doesn't warrant a spoiler alert. Right now, I've got over-written received texts in my phone from people I don't want to deal with and someone has over-written texts from me on their phone who doesn't want to deal with me, probably even a Dick pic, goddamn Snapchat. That's just how it works, some people push harder than others, I guess, but these one way exchanges of desire burn out and, after a few beers at the pub with a receptive mate, resolved and closed doors. What happens when you don't quit (implied consent is obviously here, Dick never really calls anything off)? Kraus just bleeds this desire, it's embarrassing and ludicrous, but without the eventuality you'd find within, say, Georges Bataille, it's equally as frustrating.

"Everybody leaves me, but I'm not allowed to be anywhere."

With the absence of affection, desire doesn't unlock, nor unhinge; it's devoid of any civil, mechanical movement (i.e., for those who've lost me, a door opening like a door normally opens). The bright lights seen through the edges seem far from friends, lovers, gods or saviours. Silence brings terror until you shout: "Who's there? It's me! Who is it?"

This door, this answering machine, this unresponded message, the rectangular piece of wood with its ornate handle; the solicitation of desire. Desire isn't broadcast, Kraus discovers, it's received, it's not the knock at the door, but the unturned handle as apprehensions bleeds white light, white noise, from the other side, and you lay there in fear, you keep calling until the terror simply graduates to unreciprocated subjectless desire. Or you can actually answer the door, and discover what it is you desire, what you fear, and, as Kraus discovers, sometimes it's simply the wrong address.

See you next time on Oyster Book Club! Email us at editorial@oystermag.com with your reccomendations.

Cook Suck

Photo: Ava Nirui