On April 27, 2012, I sent a friend an email with the subject line "Omg I love dick." If I were relaying this story even as recently as a year ago, I would have clarified that I was not talking about actual penis but a very important book written by Chris Kraus that you must absolutely read. But these days the book is so famous, it needs no explanation. Anyway, in the email I told my friend that I had just "finished the book and I am dying," and in our continuing conversation two days later I informed her that I still carried the book around with me "just in case," but also that I didn't know what "just in case" meant. Eventually I was able to let go of my physical copy, at which time it went on a tour with several friends. The Sisterhood of the Traveling I Love Dick Book, we called it.
After I let go of Dick, I proceeded to make my way through the rest of Chris's work: Where Art Belongs and Video Green, her essay collections about art; her novels Torpor and Aliens and Anorexia (her other novel, Summer of Hate, I haven't read yet because I keep saving it to have "just in case," although again, I'm not quite sure what "just in case" means).
Most recently I devoured After Kathy Acker, her biography of the experimental writer and performance artist best known for her cult-classic novel Blood and Guts in High School (which was banned in West Germany and South Africa!). Kathy's writing style was a combination of collage or "appropriated texts" and the cut-up technique popularized by William S. Burroughs and dealt with the topics of sex and violence. She frequently injected autobiographical facts into the whole mélange. Kathy rose to prominence in the 1970s East Village, at the same time as punk, and that explosive energy that encapsulated the city and the music scene can be felt in her work.
After Kathy Acker chronicles her childhood and her relentless pursuit of fame and notoriety until her eventual death of complications from breast cancer in 1997. "I have to make all my living as interesting to myself as my writing," she telegrammed a friend in 1982. It's a remarkable way to live.
Now that we have Chris's completely enthralling book, a new generation of writers will be inspired by Kathy. It's a gift to Kathy Acker and her legacy, and a gift to all the women who read Chris's books and shared her books and posted passages of her books on Tumblr and who made it possible for I Love Dick to exist as an Amazon series starring Kevin Bacon. Now that Chris has our attention, she's drawing us toward her muses. There's something quite beautiful about that.
On the day before the Fourth of July, I got on the phone with Chris, who was in northern Minnesota, where she goes to write for the summer. We talked about Kathy Acker, her childhood, and why hitting a wall can sometimes be great.
Laia Garcia: You've been thinking about writing After Kathy Acker since 1997, when she died. I know you started soon after her death but felt like it was too soon. Why did you pick it up again? Was there a catalyst?
Chris Kraus: It's funny. I guess I meant it was too soon for me, not too soon in the culture. After I published I Love Dick, I realized that I wanted to write another fiction book, and I had a backlog of material that became Aliens and Anorexia. I also thought that I Love Dick, out of all my books, is the one that's most influenced by Kathy, and that if I did a lot of work on Kathy at that moment, it might be misconstrued. People would say, "Oh, she's a Kathy Acker wannabe."