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When Every Letter Becomes a Love Letter

[whitespace] Chris Kraus

Chris Kraus exposes love letters to the public

By Jaimee Cole

With her book in one hand and a can of Budweiser in the other, alternative filmmaker Chris Kraus read her first literary endeavor, I Love Dick (1997, Semiotext(e) Native Agents, 275 pages, $8), aloud to a predominantly black-clad crowd peppered with tweedy literary types at City Lights bookstore last month.

During frequent pauses, Kraus took a couple of swigs from the can of beer. Whether she was trying to look cool or was attempting to achieve a cheap buzz really didn't matter much to her audience. The lurid and provocative passages she read had the capacity to perplex any sane being far more than her apparent beer-guzzling habit.

Kraus compiled 200 love letters addressed to her husband's colleague, "Dick." In fact, her husband, philosopher Sylvere Lotringer, helped her write a few of the letters himself. Through the process, Kraus claims her husband also fell in love with Dick.

The novel, which mainly takes place in Southern California and the New York art world, serves as Kraus' diary of her infatuation with Dick, "like what you have when you're 14," she says. However, the book extends far beyond an innocent crush; the letters become so excessive that stalking might be a better description. She reads about desperately trailing Dick's car and his rejection of her hot love.

"Dick never said to stop sending the letters," Kraus says. But his responses to her letters are obviously devoid of any encouragement whatsoever. Dick writes, "I can only say that being taken as the objective of such obsessive attention  ... was, indeed still is, utterly incomprehensible to me."

What we can learn from Kraus' book is if that certain special someone does not respond to a love letter, more is not necessarily the answer. Especially 200 more. It's enough to drive someone to drink.

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From the January 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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