"A historiography of one's present amnesia"
October 11, 2012 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Chris Kraus' new novel, Summer of Hate, is out, published by Semiotext(e). Read the first chapter here. No spoilers inside, but some spoilers in the links.

Kraus' best-known novel, I Love Dick, about an epistolary love-affair (of sorts) with the cultural critic, Dick Hebdige, has become something of an underground classic, and Kraus herself has become something of a patron saint (or saint patron) for a number of up-and-coming writers, such as Sheila Heti and Ben Lerner. I Love Dick even found its way into an episode of This American Life. And as one of my enthusiastic friends put it, "Chris Kraus is so fucking good!"

Kraus cut her teeth in the New York punk and art scene in the 80s and married the cultural critic and editor of Semiotext(e), Sylvère Lotringer, who features as a character in a great deal of her work. Her style (about which, Eileen Myles has said that it "turned female abjection inside out and aimed it at a man") is a mix of intensely-personal, autobiographical fiction, documentary text (letters, conversation transcripts...), and art criticism/theory, (possibly) an example of the increasingly-popular genre dubbed (occasionally) "autofiction," that hybrid of autobiography and fiction or fictional voice that makes more-or-less complete the break from the novelist-as-social-judge model of writing.

Unlike some of the recent autofiction by 30-something authors, Kraus' prose is dense and difficult to navigate. As one Goodreads review of I Love Dick put it, the book includes "loads of names mentioned that I will admit to not knowing," albeit with an effort to bring the world of "high art" out of that realm of untouchability and into the world of the personal lives and destinies of those involved.

Summer of Hate is a noir of sorts, dealing with control, sex, real estate speculation, and the lead-in to the financial collapse. Keith Gessen, in the advance review (from the back of the book) compares it to "watching a car crash happen in slow motion." The reviews of (spoilers in both links) Summer of Hate are trickling in, and seem to be positive, if unsubstantive. The new issue of Book Forum has a review by Christine Smallwood (behind a paywall).

Read and watch some interviews with Chris Kraus:

Hedi el Kholti, frieze
Janine Armin, Joyland
Martin Rumsby, Cultural Icons (SLV)
Giampaolo Bianconi, rhizome (spoilers)

And some reviews of Kraus' other work:

Elizabeth Gumport on Where Art Belongs, N+1
Eli S. Evans on I Love Dick, N+1 (excerpt of full review)
Alex Kitnick on Torpor, The Believer
posted by outlandishmarxist (10 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
More Dick previously.
posted by Egg Shen at 7:47 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Chris Kraus' prose makes me want to jump jump.
posted by mightygodking at 8:07 AM on October 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

That was excellent, mightygoodking.

Chris Kraus = contrarian to the point of clothes being on backward.
posted by flippant at 9:35 AM on October 11, 2012

I really like Chris Kraus. In some ways her work feels/still feels really eighties to me, like it belongs in Re/Search: Angry Women. And OMG the abjection. I hope she is not as abject in life. Or if we are all in fact that abject in life without realizing it, I hope I can continue in happy bourgeois self-delusion.

The only thing is, I feel like Semiotexte specializes in printing abject personal stuff by women while printing theory by and adulatory stuff about men, which fact kind of skeeves me out. When I was last ordering books for a bookstore, in 2010, I noticed that almost all their women authors had sexualized photos on the back of their books and none of their male authors did. There was the back of Foucault's big bald head on one book, which I suppose carries some kind of erotic charge, but which is not quite the same thing, culturally.
posted by Frowner at 9:49 AM on October 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also the title of a really good album by a Californian garage/psych-rock band named Crocodiles.
posted by acb at 10:35 AM on October 11, 2012

@Frowner: I can't speak for the photographs, but the reason Semiotext(e) might "specialize" in abject personal stuff by women is that Kraus runs their fiction imprint, Native Agents.

I like your comment about the eighties quality in her work, but I think it's a quality that was unnecessarily abandoned in most writing. Anything that doesn't pay starts to appear passé down the line. I adore her work, but I also have a very intimate relation with the abject.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 1:26 PM on October 11, 2012

@Frowner: I can't speak for the photographs, but the reason Semiotext(e) might "specialize" in abject personal stuff by women is that Kraus runs their fiction imprint, Native Agents.

But that doesn't account for the shortage of theory by women. It also seemed to me at the time that the issue wasn't so much fiction as that women's non-fiction at Semiotexte was more memoirs about sex than anything else, and that there did not seem to be memoirs about sex by men. Now, on the one hand you can make the argument that under patriarchy love is all women's being and it only makes sense that most of the semiotexte-ish stuff written by women would be memoirs about sex, and that making sense of sexuality under patriarchy is a central, radical project for women (but not for men?) or that even radical men are so unwilling and unable to think through sexual matters that a press like Semiotexte must leave it to women. On the other hand - and this is purely a personal thing - my life as a person assigned female at birth has not been very much about sex (casual, polygamous, monogamous, as labor, with men, with women, with other genders) but has been very much about gender and I feel for this reason like there are comparatively few books of women's experiences that speak to me. (And I may be slightly unusual but I'm not unique - at least not in my social circle.) And I find it sort of weird that across the publishing world there's way, way more traction for memoirs by attractive, sexualizable women (who are certainly brilliant, yes!) than for anything else written by women.
posted by Frowner at 2:07 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, vis-a-vis the eightiesness of Kraus's work: I have no pro- or con- on that and indeed I can't really define what strikes me as eighties about her work (I mean, not without going home and looking at my copies of her books); it just seems interesting. I'm interested in how people preserve their earliest theoretical or aesthetic concerns (if they do) - why? by what mechanism? what gets preserved and what gets dropped? what effect does this have on how their work is received? do people 'freeze' in their first intellectual flowering and stop changing, or is it a conscious choice? Or is it that people are consumed by a particular concern, become visible when their concern is zeitgeisty and then become less visible when it's not? Sort of an interest in "being an intellectual after 35", if you like.
posted by Frowner at 2:14 PM on October 11, 2012

After I wrote that response, I was watching the video interview with Kraus that I posted up above, and somewhere around the 45 minute mark (give or take 5 minutes), Kraus mentions semiotext(e)'s female troubles. She talks about Native Agents and says that she had gone up to Lotringer and said, "Look, you have all these texts by white, European men, let me run a series with U.S.-based, often female, often non-white writers." The title was even a direct response to their Foreign Agents series. I don't have a strong opinion on semiotext(e), as a whole, but I like the Native Agents series. And of course I read plenty of their other titles.

I'd be interested in knowing what you have found by women that you like to read, where gender but perhaps not sex play a central role. I guess that would be outside the theme of this post, but maybe you can message me. FWIW, I tend to see sexuality everywhere, even in Hegel and Kant (okay, maybe not in Kant).
posted by outlandishmarxist at 2:52 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Never heard of Kraus before now, but based on the linked new chapter, I have to say that from my perspective, her writing is awful. I'm willing to concede that maybe I don't get it (I'm a white male, so there's that), but yikes, her style just strikes me as really limp. Sorry.
posted by Rykey at 8:05 PM on October 11, 2012

« Older Interrobang!   |   NOT FINAL SOFTWARE Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments