The arteries of the hand & arm that write lead straight into the heart -Chris Kraus
A couple weeks ago, Sady of Tiger Beatdown wrote one of the best (online) things I've ever read, on the nature of internet feminism, and being a bad feminist. The catalyst for that post was a book called I Love Dick, which I felt to be a must-read. Sady wasn't wrong about the power of this book, its honesty, heart, and intelligence. Of course, all readers bring their own baggage to a reading experience, and I got some additional things out of I Love Dick. I found complicated and wonderful musings on the nature of love: how and why we love, how our politics can get in and get pushed out of the way, and how we use and lose our brains, all in pursuit of the object of our desire. One finds, through author Chris Kraus' honesty, that nothing really changes from the all-or-nothing days of adolescence. Love can still make you crazy: you re-think and over-think, write and re-write. It's through the process of writing to Love -- and I feel that the titular personage of Dick is ultimately a stand-in for the emotion itself -- that the political and personal become delineated, detailed, and finally, finely, understood.
I Love Dick also elucidated the book I finished previous to it: Russell Smith's Girl Crazy. In one of the early letters to Dick, the object of Chris' unrequited and inexplicable love, she writes the following:
The "serious" contemporary hetero-male novel is a thinly veiled Story of Me, as voraciously consumptive as all of patriarchy. While the hero/anti-hero explicitly is the author, everybody else is reduced to "characters." *
In Girl Crazy our hero/anti-hero is Justin. I began reading Girl Crazy a couple days after Smith's weird Globe and Mail piece, though not because of it. It was evident pretty early on that Justin is a stand in for Smith, the wordy nerd** who longs for something Other. He finds that in Jenna, the archetypal wild girl that nerdy boys have always dreamed of, but never seem to get. She's the stripper with the heart of a poet; a girl who offers all orifices and speaks about philosophy, though at a second grade level. She's just slutty enough, and as such, lacks depth (as Zoe Whittall pointed out in her review). Justin's educated female peer group is no less shallow. They're catty when Jenna meets them, and late in the novel Justin's ex-girlfriend refuses any advance into territory that is unfamiliar or slightly risque†. All this, of course, leads me to wonder if Smith really does love these PR girls for their brains.
Girl Crazy isn't a bad book. It's a quick, interesting read, with some glimpses of real emotion. However, when Justin walks off into the sunset with the phallic adjunct of a gun in his pants, one might conclude that what really makes the author/character crazy, is his own dick.
*See also, Sady's excellent piece Fond Memories of Vagina: Martin Amis’ The Pregnant Widow
**There's a Monty Python joke on pg 27. That's high-level nerd.
†The virgin/whore dichotomy is alive and well.