Monday, September 02, 2019

Sex short circuits all imaginative exchange

C: Ann thought it was a great project, more perverse than just having an affair. She thinks it'd make a good book! When Dick calls shall we tell him we're considering publication?

S: No. The murder hasn't happened yet. Desire's still unconsummated. Let the media wait.
It didn't occur to me when I started writing letters a year and a half ago, unsent, that I was working within an already established art form. In fact, I didn't think of art or work at all. It was therapy.

What makes it a letter and not a diary entry is intention and direction. I needed to say something to someone in particular. At first it was the recovering heroin addict ex-boyfriend. But as those feelings resolved themselves, I wrote to some version of myself. Finally the letters became stories I tell my (mostly) imaginary lover.

This is not quite how I Love Dick unfolds, but Chris Kraus has done something similar, projecting an impassioned love affair on a man she barely knows.

So. Highly relatable.

Chris and Sylvère, together some ten years, are dining with Dick, an academic acquaintance of Sylvère's, and they go back to Dick's place and drink some more, by which time Chris is totally crushing on Dick, and when she confides in Sylvère the next day, they begin writing letters to Dick that they never send. They create ménage à trois where none existed, and explore its outcomes, without any basis other than Chris's love (imaginary or real?) for Dick.

My coworker noticed it on my desk — she's read it — asked me how I liked it, but when I said relatable, she gave me a funny look.

I mean the imaginary love affair part. I have no idea what else this book has in store. Oh god, they joke about a murder, maybe that goes somewhere. I hope she doesn't think I plan murders.
Have Chris and I spent this past week in turmoil just to turn our lives into a text?
On the car ride home I started reading Research Into Marriage, then underlining, footnoting and annotating all the passages that could relate to me and you. It's an exercise both adolescent (me!) and academic (you!) ... my first art object, which I'll give you as a present.
I want to go back to the beginning and annotate this book as it relates to my own imaginary love affair. So badly. Every bit that makes this book so relatable. I will make an offering of it.

I'm about halfway through this book when I start rereading, pencil in hand. I had been swept away by this book as a model of what I could do with my own writing; I want to slow down to better understand it. On rereading, this book is not what I was experiencing at all. The text was merely, magically, a trigger for my own interior experience, but already it's not a story I recognize, it's telling a different story from the one I thought I was reading. Those lines of insight I thought would stay with me, the passages I wanted to mark when no pencil was in reach — I can't find them anymore.

There's a comment about Schoenberg and I remember the lovely novel I read last winter that I never got round to writing about.

I Love Dick. I Love Dick. I Love ... (I need to make this book my own.) I Love Marc. Making My Marc. Making My Mark. (That's not clever, it's cheesy.)

[How would he react to having his name changed? I don't think he'd like it, it's no longer the truth. Maybe he'd rather remain anonymous. Of course, him being imaginary, I don't even have to tell him, he'd never find out about this. I'll tell him. Of course I'll tell him. I tell him everything. That's almost the fucking point. Does he know that he's now an art experience? Maybe I've always subconsciously known that that's what he was meant to be, what we were meant to be. He has no agency of his own, only that which I bestow upon him. I create him.]
And then Chris went alone into her room and wrote a letter, thinking she would send it, about sex and love. She was all confused about wanting to have sex, sensing that at this point if she slept with Dick the whole thing would be over. THE — UNEXAMINED — LIFE — IS NOT — WORTH — LIVING flashed the titles of a Ken Kobland film against the backbeat of a carfuck 1950s song. "As soon as sex takes place, we fall," she wrote, thinking, knowing from experience, that sex short circuits all imaginative exchange. The two together get too scary. So she wrote some more about Henry James. Although she really wanted both. "Is there a way," she wrote in closing, "to dignify sex, make it as complicated as we are, to make it not grotesque?"
And this makes me sad because it becomes clear to me that she does not understand sex the way I do, it is complicated and not grotesque and it is entirely cerebral, my imaginary lover and I agree that creative juices and sexual juices flow into each other, the nature of exchange need not be verbal, it becomes something else.

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