I Love Dick (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents)
A strange book; it unsettled me. Now, months after finishing it, I’m still not sure what I thought of it.
The basic premise is well known – Kraus, filmmaker, theorist, and wife of French theorist Sylvere Lotringer has a short encounter with a theorist named Dick* and becomes infatuated. She and Lotringer begin playing a game with Dick where they send him letters ruminating on the nature of Kraus’s “love” for Dick, a man she has met once. As the book progresses, Lotringer and Kraus relationship begins to fail, Kraus has a number of other encounters with Dick, and all the while she writes him these long, letters describing her “love” for him, but also her life, and her thoughts on various artists and political activists.
Let’s start by saying that I initially found the conceit of the book off putting. Dick did not ask to be the object of Kraus’s obsession, nor did he consent to be the subject of the book. I understand that Kraus is subverting gender roles here – that in many cases women are the object of desire, without their consent, but I’m not sure the best way to challenge this is to inflict the same cruelty on a unsuspecting man.
That said, Dick does, eventually, consent. Maybe? He sleeps with Kraus, that’s for sure, yet still claims he doesn’t want to be part of the game. That doesn’t seem like fair play. Or does it? Can he have it both ways? Make love to her, but not love her? Could a women? In the end, Dick comes off like a dick. But so does Kraus.
Kraus’s place as a woman in the male dominated world of “theory” is, in the end, the central premise of the book. Dick and Sylvere travel the world giving lectures on their ideas about art, Kraus’s only space for these thoughts is in love letters to a stranger all the while wondering about how she ended up here. I’m not sure how much of this book is true, nor am I sure how much that matters. Basically, it’s all a big mess. But its an engaging one, and the mix of memoir, criticism, humor and cynicism has had a huge impact on other books I love, like Nelson’s the Argonauts. All in all, a compelling, if confusing, read.
*In the book, Dick is only referred to by his first name, but it is now well known that he is Dick Hebdige