I started reading this book three years ago while on a Greyhound to see a friend in Waterloo. I was nervous about publicly reading a book with a title like, “I Love Dick” because I was 18 years old and the world is a scary, judgemental place! Whenever I pulled it out, I made sure to do it swiftly, while strategically covering the title.
One night at a dorm party, a boy came up to me and said he recognized me. He had a sneaky smile on his face as he tried to place me in his memory, half drunk. Finally, and to my demise, he shouted, “You were on my bus! You were reading that dick book!”
Photos by Krizia Victoria
I Love Dick by Chris Kraus is a fictional story about a woman who becomes obsessed with an art critic named Dick. After meeting him with her husband, Sylvere, Chris becomes obsessed with the idea of sleeping with Dick. Eventually, the couple has a platonic sleepover at his house, and Dick leaves the next morning unannounced leaving Chris feeling like she experienced a “conceptual fuck.”
Chris and Sylvere never slept with Dick, but his disappearance coupled with her deep infatuation with him, has her feeling betrayed and abandoned. Chris begins writing letters to Dick hoping to get answers as to why he left the next morning without leaving a letter. Her husband, Sylvere joins in as a creative exercise in piecing their marriage back together. The couple essentially becomes insane and begins projecting all sorts of ideas onto this stranger who never responds. Chris eventually pursues Dick, literally and figuratively, in this tale of a woman deeply exploring her emotions.
This book really nails the psychological state of what it feels like to wait on a man (or anyone for that matter). The anxious love letters Chris writes to Dick are exactly the same as texts we write to strangers we hardly know, tricking ourselves into thinking the misunderstood art-boy is not complete trash. Kraus captures the assumptive and falsely hopeful thought process of someone waiting on a text with this line on page 63:
“I guess these silent types make you work twice as hard and then you can’t escape because you yourself create the cage. Maybe that’s why you feel so bad.”
Chris’ character is completely aware that she created her own ‘cage’, and that her ideas about Dick are what’s driving her insane. Her character is relatable with her hopeful assumptions and fantasies of how people should and might be (not necessarily how they are). Kraus does this to allude to our unrealistic expectations we have on complete strangers. Chris knows that her infatuation is based on projections, and that he will most likely be as disappointing as that salad you pre-packed for lunch.
I Love Dick was published in 1997, but holds up pretty damn well, aside from all the FedEx references. Kraus captures what love and infatuation does to the human psyche and creates a story about men and women with an astute sense of self-awareness.
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