Before anyone gets excessively excited or overly offended, Dick is the object of a couple’s obsession, their fantasy, the thinning hope of their marriage: Dick Hebdige. Since its publication in 1997 Chris Kraus’s novel has been widely accepted as a significant feminist text, and a notable intrusion into the discussion of where autobiography and make believe collide. She challenges what a ‘novel’ can be called. The book is unrepentant from start to finish.
Kraus is a failed experimental film maker turning 40, and in crisis. Their marriage has an eternal sex drought. Its fraying at the seems. Feeling trapped and living in the eclipse of her husband she falls in love with an established art and culture theorist, Dick Hebdige. Plot twist! Chris’s husband, Sylvère Lotringer is involved with his wife’s infatuation with said Dick. The two effectively join forces to seduce and stalk Mr Hebdige.
The couple incessantly write letters about their fantasies. Although these letters are not sent to Dick, the reader follows the game played by the couple. It encourages an analysis on the culture of acceptance of female sexual expression, and how art propels or represses it. When the two culprits approach their prey, he is obviously a tad disturbed by their obsession. Spoiler! Chris and Dick do have sex, but her spiralling desire only pushes Dick away. As you read you cannot help but feel like a partaker in Dick’s harassment.
Kraus gradually starts to contemplate the implications of her desire; what it could do to her career in comparison to her male contemporaries who do not operate within the same artistic confines. Other females are often dismissed as out of the ordinary or aggressive.
A decade on, the content does not inspire the same shock it would have in the late 90’s aside from its title. Books such as ‘Difficult Women’ by Roxane Gay, or ‘Made for Love’ by Alissa Nutting, push the boundaries of what is acceptable. This being said, Chris Kraus’ novel, although a story of romance and desire, also contributes to debates on femininity, theoretically and culturally. How do seemingly invisible structures impact what internal thoughts or desires are exhibited? You have not read a subtle feminist text until you have read ‘I Love Dick’.