The Book That Will Teach You All You Need To Know About Having A Conceptual Fuck

May 17, 2017

|Maria Suarez

Have you ever been attracted to someone’s ideas, to the point of being sexually aroused? We’re familiar with cheating on a physical and emotional level, but intellectual? What happens when someone, a third party, stimulates your brain through quotes and writings, driving you mad with desire? Mind you, this isn’t just reading someone’s work. This is being across the table from someone who can bring poems and philosophy down to Earth in such a way that you feel more exhilarated than if you had had a physically sexual encounter with them.

It's better than sex. Reading delivers on the promise that sex raises but hardly ever can fulfill – getting larger cause you're entering another person's language, cadence, heart and mind.”
Chris Kraus, I Love Dick

In 1997, Chris Kraus released I Love Dick, a novel that would take a couple more years before it made waves in the literary world. Placing herself as the protagonist, the writer uses her actual name and everything, as well as that of her ex-husband college professor. She then dives straight in to a scene where she meets a friend of her husband, Dick, a culture critic who brings out feelings and sensations she hasn’t felt in years. It’s so obvious that her hubby, with whom she hasn’t had sex with in years, even suggests she writes a letter to this sensuous intellectual. It’s a game that the couple revels together, as a sort of scholarly foreplay and self-pleasure.

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Why do people think that we’re degraded when we’re examining positions of degradation, or examining the cycle of our own degradation?” 

Chris Kraus, I Love Dick

But beyond the wacky plot of the novel, that might or might not be based on the author’s true life experiences, the story of Chris’s obsession with Dick, as well as the writing inspiration it brings, is a tale about the stagnant moments in our lives. The protagonist is not just driven to this other academic due to his words, but because she feels that he’s saying it to her or for her benefit. The author eventually uses the aptly titled situation as a conceptual fuck. Yes, Chris does want to sleep with Dick, but this results in the awakening he has created in her. She is an experimental filmmaker who feels like she’s done it all, yet failed as well. She hasn’t reached the peak of her career, in the form of creating anything groundbreaking enough to make a name for herself. However, she’s a valid member of this upper echelon of intellectuals.

In a way, her dormant sexuality is also a mirror of her creativity. She’s a 39-year-old woman who should be at the height of sexual pleasure and in the midst of a prolific career, yet she’s detached from it until Dick comes along. There are plenty of reasons for this situation, but as readers, we understand the lure of this other man in her life: It is a way for her to reboot herself on an artistic and human level, and it’s also part of this symbiotic relationship with her husband, who also seems to be attracted to Dick, in the way that he somehow wants to be his pen pal on a name-that-quote level.

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According to Charles Olsen, the best poetry is a kind of schizophrenia. The poem does not ‘express’ the poet's thoughts or feelings. It is ‘a transfer of energy between the poet and the reader’.” 

Chris Kraus, I Love Dick

What sets Dick apart from other female-driven storytelling, particularly of the time period when it was first released, is its unapologetic representation of a woman, married no less, pursuing both her professional and sexual fulfillment. Kraus shows how sexual attraction can lead to artistic inspiration, which eventually goes back to a longing for a connection that doesn't need to be romantic or even sexual. Instead, this is based on the feeling of being seen and acknowledged by others. It’s from that front where Chris becomes obsessed with Dick. Despite not feeling as if she’s on the same intellectual level as her husband and his friend, she feels desired and seen by this other man.

Dear Dick, I’m wondering why every act that narrated female lived experience in the ’70s has been read only as ‘collaborative’ and ‘feminist’. The Zurich Dadaists worked together too but they were geniuses and they had names.”
Chris Kraus, I Love Dick

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Ultimately to speak of Chris Kraus and Dick is to realize that art created by women is always tinged with the bias of those in the higher echelons of art, mostly men. That last quote speaks of how everything female is lumped together and given a name, as if to keep the artists anonymous. It’s through progressive works like this novel, and the series based on it, that we as viewers can begin to counteract what the establishment considers appropriate or inappropriate art and narrative. By changing the formula of what is expected for a literary work written by a woman, featuring a female protagonist, Kraus rises against the standards and expectations, while also inspiring other women to find their own Dick to take them on a journey of self-revelation.

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Maria Suarez

Maria Suarez

Coordinadora Editorial CC+