Deadline is reporting something that seems both completely inevitable and totally impossible: Jill Soloway is directing and executive producing a half-hour pilot based on I Love Dick, Chris Kraus’s canonically experimental memoir-fiction hybrid, which was published by Semiotext(e) in 1997.
I Love Dick is the story of a Sylvere and Chris, a married couple in shadowy academia whose relationship begins to revolve around Chris’s obsession with a similarly shadowy theorist named Dick. (Chris Kraus was actually married to Sylvere Lotringer, who founded Semiotext(e)’s Foreign Agents arm—to which their Native Agents series, which published Kraus, served as a later, widely influential counterpart.) Dick rebuffs Chris’s intensive correspondence, but it continues with Sylvere, first about Dick, and then, about the desire itself. And so the subject—female longing and obsession and performance of such—is taken to an absolute theoretical extreme and placed in the structural center; it defends itself intrinsically, and develops a startlingly muscular, electric life of its own.
I Love Dick is about itself, and contains many passages like this:
No matter how dispassionate or large a vision of the world a woman formulates, whenever it includes her own experience and emotion, the telescope’s turned back on her. Because emotion’s just so terrifying the world refuses to believe that it can be pursued as discipline, as form.
And this, a famous one:
Because I’m moved in writing to be irrepressible. Writing to you seems like some holy cause, cause there’s not enough female irrepressibility written down. I’ve fused my silence and repression with the entire female gender’s silence and repression. I think the sheer fact of women talking, being, paradoxical, inexplicable, flip, self-destructive but above all else public is the most revolutionary thing in the world. I could be 20 years too late but epiphanies don’t always synchronize with style.
“I aim to be a female monster too,” Kraus writes.
I Love Dick is extremely not my shit, but I know that’s partly because I grew up in a time when it was not quite so revolutionary to aim to be a female monster; my monstrosity was assured to me (and probably goes relatively unexplored) thanks to Kraus and the women who produced art after her. Eileen Myles contextualizes the book’s impact in the latest edition’s foreword, writing about the conditions that produced it:
I just knew in a quiet way I was ruined. If I agreed to be female....I just hated reading work by women or about women because it always added up the same. Loss of self, endless self-abnegation even as the female was trying to be an artist, she wound up pregnant, desperate, waiting on some man.
This book is the quite the opposite, and anyway, very few things that have come after it have been as relatively radical, and no one could do it justice like Transparent’s Jill Soloway (who, incidentally, is dating Eileen Myles as of last reporting). The pilot will be written by playwright Sarah Gubbins. And so now the real question: who’s going to be in the cast?
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