First published in 1997, I Love Dick was a landmark publication in the world of feminist literature, cleverly mixing memoir with fiction to create what the author called “lonely girl phenomenology”, and what the critics call “radical” and “gossipy”. The public loved it and I can totally see why.
The Dick of the title is a man – a sociologist and media theorist who dazzles the author throughout the book, captivating her like a shiny thing catches the eye of a kea. As time passes and she negotiates her way through the art world with her husband by her side, she encounters various movers and shakers some real life figures, some not, some possible “names changed to prevent a law suit”… And always Dick.
There are undoubtedly some disturbing aspects to the book. The idea that a married woman would “crush” on a single man, who seems uninterested to the point of asking her to leave him alone, and convinces her husband to help pen letters to him seems cruel, possibly fantastical. Does she love Dick that much or is it the idea of Dick? Of what he represents?
Sharp eyed and sarcastic, Kraus spares no one, least of all herself, brutally dissecting the feminist movement of the 90s, both within the academic world and the fickle arts scene where individuality is heralded as new and brave, but only if it can be marketed in an acceptably formulaic fashion.
A performance artist on the rise, married to a successful man, her feminist world view takes on a distinctly Dick-shaped lens, one she’s aware of but unsure whether it’s a gift or a handicap in a post-modernist world.
And who is Dick? Is he a real person? And what really happened between the author, her husband and Dick?
Dick’s real identity is now known – but don’t go searching for it until you’ve read this book. Reading it for the first time is something to treasure. The fact it’s not as well-known as non-fiction feminist texts is a shame, a crime! This is a book every independent, intelligent woman (or man who likes them) should read. It’s not fluffy. It’s certainly not a beach read. But it’s witty, satisfying and good for the soul – like a night out where the wine is as good as the conversation and you know your plan to take over the world is solid.
I’ve added I Love Dick this book to my “Annual Read” list. So should you, because I think you’ll love Dick just as much as I do.
Reviewed by Sarah McMullan
I Love Dick
by Chris Kraus
Published by Serpent’s Tail
PB ISBN 9781781256480
HB ISBN 9781781256473