How can you not be drawn to a book that shouts, proudly, from its front cover I LOVE DICK? But that’s not what led me to choose this book, it was the quote on the front stating that this “is the most important book about men and women written in the last century” (Guardian).
I love to read to be entertained, but I particularly love it when I read a book which feels novel, momentous, important. This is one of those books. One which will sit with me for a long time afterwards. One of those books that makes me want to write. To really write.
I read this book in just one evening and morning. I read it with my phone next to me, so that I could look up all the people and things Kraus references: Hannah Wilke, Kitaj, The Third Mind, David Rosenhan. (How much I’ve learnt in just a few hours!). I kept a notebook by my side so I could record all the quotes that just seemed so important. I felt like a teenager again, discovering books that were written by real people, people who were smarter than me, but who’d had the same problems.
It’s a feminist manifesto. It’s about being a woman who is scared to write because “they don’t think anyone will listen” (p213). It is about being in love with men, even though you know that often they are merely a blank slate onto which you are projecting your own thoughts and impulses. Maybe it says something about why we feel we need men to give us permission. It is too clever for me, and it is inspiring and wonderful at the same time.
My favourite quote (and especially relevant after a weekend visit to my father’s church): “RD Laing never figured out that the ‘divided self’ is female subjectivity. Writing about an ambitious, educated 26 year old schizophrenic in the suburban 50s: ‘… the patient repeatedly contrasts her real self with her false compliant self’. Oh really” (p225)
At the end of the book, it seems that the male characters manage to erase the female author. That’s clever. And sad. And very, very important.