July 26th, 2017


Book #38: I Love Dick by Chris Kraus

Number of pages: 277

I had read a lot about this new cult novel, including about the Amazon Prime series starring Kevin Bacon, that I felt I had to give it a go. Although, as Joan Hawkins notes in the afterword, "Novel" is perhaps not the right word to give to this very most-modern title.

The story is set in the 1990s and involves a (presumably fictional) version of author Chris Kraus and her husband Sylvere, meeting the eponymous Dick, who invites them back to stay over at his house. By morning, Dick is gone, but Chris slowly becomes obsessed with him to the point of stalking.

The book is not written in a traditional format, but mostly takes the form of a series of letters, mostly written from Chris to Dick, although there are some conversations in screenplay format and diary entries. I liked Joan Hawkins' description of the reader as a voyeur, as it does feel like you're reading intimate details of a real couples' love life. The letters set out events that have happened to the characters, but mostly talk at great length about Chris' thoughts, and even her very explicit sexual fantasies. The writing format made this quite a hard book to read, particularly as the letters become increasingly long-winded, and they even include essays about subjects including culture, philosophy and even schizophrenia.

I could see why this book has achieved cult status, but it didn't really feel like my style of book. I think maybe it's a book that female readers could enjoy more. It's a book worth trying just for its unusual style, but don't expect it to be an easy read.

Next book: Work (Joseph Heller)


Years ago, the Book of the Month Club offered Father Andrew Greeley's The Bishop in the Old Neighborhood as an alternate selection, and its blurb suggested there might be something contemporary, involving gentrification and counterterrorism.  So I bought it, and it somehow stayed unopened but not stashed away for the move, and I figured that after recently finishing The Bishop and the Missing L Train, a compare-and-contrast might be in order.  Thus Book Review No. 18.

Auxiliary Bishop John Blackwood Ryan is still the consulting detective, Sean Cardinal Cronin is still the Archbishop of Chicago (to keep the titles straight, a parish is an area, usually geographic, from which a church draws its congregants: this is a Big Deal in Chicago; a diocese is a collection of parishes assigned to the stewardship of a bishop; per corollary, an archdiocese is a collection of dioceses assigned to the leadership of an archbishop, who does not have to be a cardinal; and some dioceses and most archdioceses are too large to be shepherded by one bishop; thus the auxiliary bishops), there are still four high schoolers called Megan staffing the cathedral rectory, although there has been some turnover among them, and chocolate malteds are still the courtship beverage of choice.

But Cardinal Cronin turns out to be scion of a family locked in a rivalry with Joseph Kennedy, and his father wanted to do Rumrunner Joe one better getting both a cardinal and a president: so far, no president.  Bishop Ryan's father is a prominent Chicago litigator, whose disorderly files provide information germane to the mystery at hand.  We meet Declan O'Donnell, from a long line of Irish cops, whose father is a practitioner of the fine art of "slagging."  (If you won't be around to slag your boy, name him Sue.  Go look it up.)  He's got the makings of a fine field spook, plus his involvement with a beach volleyball player from the State's Attorney's office provides the love story.  Then there's Marshal O'Boyle, Marshal Burns, who has a current commercial interest in ruining his adoptive father's business, and if he knew the back story of his adoption, he might have more murderous motives. Stir in assorted Irish mystics, and people who have the second sight, and cast the runes, er ogam script.

The Old Neighborhood refers to that section of Chicago just east of Oak Park, which regulars call "Austin."  Oak Park is going upscale.  Chicago just east of city limits is next, and the ambitious plans of developers, and the parish priest, who has a novel way of financing a new school, set off a few tensions between the haves, have-nots, and aspire-to-mores.  And in the days just after the Twin Towers came down, rogue government operatives get into the act.  Rogue government operatives we have always had with us, even -- especially -- before Normandy and then the Manhattan Project settled world affairs for a while.  But I must stop this review now, before I give the game away.  I will tell you the story communicates less optimism about the world than Missing L Train did.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)