After re-reading your book the other night I didn’t fall asleep ’til 3 a.m.
I was reminded of the experience I had when I read I love Dick for the first time, how I felt liberated, both by the book’s form and its content. When I finally did fall asleep, I had a dream about you. Or, to be more precise, a dream about this gathering here tonight, in which you were a very clever 21-year-old blonde girl with ugly glasses. I myself was in the dream as well, trying to read a text from a paper of which the longer I looked at it, the more convinced I became that it was empty. I felt very passionate about something, and I was desperate to tell you about it, but I was afraid that what I wanted to say would not come out the way I wanted it to. The next morning I felt like I needed to be liberated again, so I started to write this text.
One of the most positive reviews one of my books has ever received, I was very happy with it at the time, had as a subtitle: “Should she be in therapy?” I think the conclusion of the piece that followed was something along the lines of: yes, she should definitely be in therapy, but her poetry is nonetheless good. And so I was happy. I accepted the answer as an affirmation of my right to be a poet. It never occurred to me that it had been a very strange question to begin with, a question not related to my poetry at all.
Why does I love Dick appeal to so many people here, in The Netherlands, now, in 2016? Some people say it is because of a feminist revival that is taking place. But I don’t believe feminism has ever waned, it just gets “upgraded” by the media every 10 years or so (third wave feminism, fourth wave feminism, etc.) — an upgrading of which I suspect it is there only to suggest the youth of a movement that has been around for decades, because suggesting something is young or new makes it easier to accuse it of naivety & rookie mistakes. Although it is true that there is a generation of young people with feminist ideas, I love Dick also appeals to a generation of people (male & female) hungry for an anti-anti-intellectualist movement - for whom feminism is second nature. At least, I hope so.
Then again: I have wanted to be an intellectual woman for as long as I can remember. The kind of person who goes to the theatre a lot, loves to read and visits evenings about female writers in Spui 25 (where she and all the other intellectual women make up 75 to 85% of the public)… By which I mean that realising that being an intellectual woman means nothing but being a consumer of culture makes me want more. Perhaps I’ll have a shot at becoming, as you call it, a female monster. Female monsters who, you wrote, ‘take things as personally as they really are. They study facts. Even if rejection makes them feel like the girl who’s not invited to the party, they have to understand the reason why.’
I think of I love Dick when, post-poetry reading, men walk up to me in order to give me advice on the way I should or should not read my poems. They say: you are beautiful, your poems are beautiful, but you are not doing yourself & your work justice. I do want to understand the reason why. Apparently doing yourself justice starts with letting someone else decide what is just for you - then doing that. — Speaking of justice, it is funny how I know several people who feel I love Dick brings justice and yet it is the only book I know that lists a legal counsellor in its acknowledgements.
The title of the 2nd part of your book is ‘every letter is a lover letter’. But every letter (or email) I have ever written was a cry for approval. However, I love Dick has made me realise that failure can (and should) be a subject of art as well, and that this is something one doesn’t have to be apologetic about. Knowing this spares me the effort of being defensive about what I write. Instead of defensive, it allows me to be expressive. I don’t need anyone’s approval - sometimes not even my own. And that, I guess, is the most important reason why I love Dick was liberating to me. So thank you. I guess this is a love letter after all.
Lieke Marsman addressed this (love) letter to Chris Kraus on may 26th 2016 at Spui 25 in Amsterdam, where Chris was interviewed publicly by Maarten van der Graaff and NiÃ±a Weijers.