There is nothing to do with this amazing book other than just quote from it. Here is a list of the quotations that moved me the most. You will find your own. I realize this blog is just me fawning over books but what else is there, what else is there to do with books so thrilling and intellectual and embodied and well-written?
It begins with an intro by Eileen Myles (of course), reflecting on her early experiences as a young girl:
"I just knew in a quiet way I was ruined. If I agreed to be female. There was so much evidence on the screen and in books. I read Doris Lessing in literature class and that depressed the shit out of me too. 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."
So that sets the stage. And then Chris Kraus follows the fish hook of romance, desire, obsession, right to the very end of it, into the grotesque stomach of the thing, and back out again. This is a spoiler: she survives. She doesn’t end up waiting on the man, or ruined. She lives on, her self intact, or even more so, because of what she goes through, the whole drippy emotional mess of it, in her desire for this one man.
She writers herself through it.
“As soon a sex takes places, we fall,” she wrote, thinking, knowing from experience, that sex short circuits all imaginative exchange. The two together get too scary. So she wrote 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?” (51)
Writing herself through it—and writing often directly to him, the desired male object—she meditates on marriage, possession, feminist art, female desire, the act of writing itself:
"Sylvère keeps socializing what I’m going through with you. Labeling it through other people’s eyes—Adultery in Academe, John Updike meets Marivaux… Faculty Wife Throws Herself At Husband’s Colleague. This presumes that there’s something inherently grotesque, unspeakable, about femaleness, desire. But what I’m going through with you is real and happening for the first time." (138)
"Shame is what you feel after letting someone take you someplace past control—then feeling torn up three days later between desire, paranoia, etiquette wondering if they’ll call." (170)
On love, Kraus (the character?) writes letters to Dick (the character!):
No woman is an island-ess. We fall in love in hope of anchoring ourselves to someone else, to keep from falling.” (257)
"This incident congealed into a philosophy: Art supercedes what’s personal. It’s a philosophy that serves patriarchy well and I followed it more or less for 20 years.
That is: until I met you.” (230)
On feminist art:
"I’m wondering why every act that narrated female lived experience in the 70s has been read only as “collaborative” and “feminist.” The Zurich Dadaists worked together too but they were geniuses and they had names." (150)
"WHO GETS TO SPEAK AND WHY?, I wrote last week, IS THE ONLY QUESTION." (191)
"Why is female vulnerability still only acceptable when it’s neuroticized and personal; when it feeds back on itself? Why do people still not get it when we handle vulnerability like philosophy, at some remove?" (207)
“Dear Dick,” I wrote in one of my many letters, “what happens between women now is the most interesting thing in the world because it’s lease described.” (208)
The meditation on feminism bleeds into her ars poetica:
"And why’s Janis Joplin’s life read as a downward spiral into self-destruction? Everything she did is filtered through her death. Roger Gilbert-Lecomte, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, River Phoenix all suicide too but we see their deaths as aftermaths of lives that went too far. But let a girl choose death—Janis Joplin, Simone Weil—and death becomes her definition, the outcome of her “problem.” To be female still means being trapped within the purely psychological. 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. Dear Dick, I wanted to make the world more interesting than my problems. Therefore, I have to make my problems social." (196)
And the absolute ultimate quotation, already shared often on Tumblr, another ars poetica, the one that I connect to most:
"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.” (210)