Warning: "continue" targeting switch is equivalent to "break". Did you mean to use "continue 2"? in /var/www/arkbooks.dk/public_html/wp-content/plugins/jetpack/_inc/lib/class.media-summary.php on line 77
Chris Kraus – arkbooks
pornjk.com tube600.com xpornplease.com redtube.social porn600.me porn800.me watchfreepornsex.com tube300.me

Home of the best stories you've never heard

Tag archive

Chris Kraus

Book Review: Torpor, By Chris Kraus.

in Ark Review/Book reviews by

Torpor is the final part of Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick trilogy, a series which chronicles the final years of her (character’s) marriage to the cultural theorist Sylvère Lotringer and her obsession with Dick and her attempts to become a filmmaker, and maybe in the process become a little bit more like her hero, Simone Wiel. Set in 1991, three years before the events of I Love Dick, Torpor follows Sylvie and Jarome, characters with names borrowed from Georges Perec’s Things: A Story of the 60s, which cannot be read as anything but pseudonyms for Chris and Sylvère, on an ill-fated journey to Romania in the vain hope that they can somehow adopt a baby, despite the fact that post-revolution, Romania has banned all adoption. The journey actually takes them to the heart of the compromises and traumas upon which their relationship is built, leaving them with no hope of a simple happily-ever-after together but maybe a stronger sense of how to go on living.

Torpor is by far the most conventionally novelistic part of the trilogy. The device of letters to an imagined other are long gone and yet still to come. And essays about idealised, marginalised thinkers and artists are placed in the background. After two volumes, in which Chris, the character, has tried to illustrate just how much more qualified she is to theorise about life and culture than the Bataille boys that surround her husband, in the third person, through the alias of Sylvie, she is finally able to fully integrate her analysis into her storytelling. The result is something incredibly rich in terms of a personal narrative, a historical document and a reflection on the nature of subjectivity itself. But it is also bloody funny. As in this passage on the couple’s dog, Lily, who is not only a focal point that holds their relationship together but also a point of commonality between Chris and Sylvère and Perec’s Sylvie and Jarome;

Sylvie’s views on interspecies sex were mixed. Allowing their little dog to hump her leg was probably perverse, but still, she wanted to be a conduit for canine happiness. When she’d adopted Lily at the city pound six years ago, the dog was nearly blind and starving. She’d obviously suffered terrible ordeals, and Sylvie wanted to believe that misery could simply be replaced with happiness. Time was a straight line, stretching out in front of you. If you could create a golden kind of time and lay it right beside the other time, the time of horror, Bad History could just recede into the distance without ever having to be resolved. This theory worked well enough with Lily. Sylvie couldn’t understand why it wasn’t working with Jerome.

Chris Kraus

There is something irresolvable about a human life that cannot simply be sorted out by another person. Not least if that life has been lived through the Holocaust. Torpor is a story about knowing the end of something is coming but being unable to know when that end will come. This is true of both their relationship and the political dreams and tragedies of the twentieth century. In telling this story it answers a great many of the narrative question set up in I Love Dick and Aliens and Anorexia while continuing to explore those thematic questions that defy easy resolution. One could say that, while this is a depressed book, it is not a depressing book. Rather it helps us to understand sadness and trauma as being things that are not insurmountable but at the same time never succumbing to the glib ideology that they must be completely conquered. This novel is not just something for Chris Kraus completists but instead an important part of the story. It is some of the vital data with which to make a life a case study.

You can listen to the Ark Audio Book Club podcast on Torpor here.

Feminism is Important and so might be Bad Feminism

in Essays by

Feminism is important and so might be bad feminism. (I hope I’ll get an insight on what the term “bad feminist” means for Roxane Gay – that is, I can’t wait for the book to arrive.) As so often, situations are paradoxes which adds to their beauty, but also makes them more difficult to describe.

And there I find myself: Surrounded by thin ice. I walk.

Oppositions, such as depicted by Chris Kraus in I love Dick and Siri Hustvedt in The Blazing World, clarify, each in their own way, by pointing towards the still existing problems for women.

I think of these texts as good, important, necessary; I found myself in them for moments, sometimes even for longer periods and still couldn’t but feel as the disadvantaged or even the weaker gender after having read them. This isn’t a problem per se, it depends on what it does to you. It just kept me wondering about the different ways of living with this topic and the need of oppositions.

I know a lot of people, born into the body of women, who gain  a lot of energy and motivation from reading about the differences—as Chris Kraus and Siri Hustvedt in the two books mentioned above, describe them—followed by the urge to fight these differences.

Not me—I don’t feel motivated. Instead, I had to remind myself over and over again while reading “The Blazing World” that Siri Hustvedt actually has what her character fails to have, not to mention Chris Kraus and her success. Hard earned with a lot of hideous experiences I am sure, but received and recognized.

This seems to be an opposition in itself. Pointing towards the possible failure of oppositions. “Fortunate” I would like to say, but am a bit nervous of slipping on the ice.

Reading these two books I became aware that I could keep on a kind of feminist—and at least in my eyes—dark glasses and look at the world/society through those, but noticed that this would not make me more motivated to work against those existing differences or continue my goals/ambitions/interests. Instead, defined “a woman” by society, I feel weakened. As if, being born into the body that I was has labelled me “most likely to fail”. Apart from that, these glasses didn’t really seem to fit me at any point—always slightly too big or too small.

Those books posses certain strength, which they achieve largely by operating with oppositions. As such, they point towards ‘social violence’ as Didier Eribon calls it in his book, Returning to Reims. I find this term quite fitting as a way to describe how it may feel like—regardless of which box society has ready for you—to be confronted with expectations of how one ought to behave in certain situations and codes that one ought to keep. One can give in, or try to go against, though the latter usually means a lot of awareness, failure and energy put into it in everyday life. And there we are back again to the different ways of approaching the ‘differences’.

Am I a bad feminist? Not that kind that Roxane Gay seems to talk about, more like – none at all? Or even worse?

I bend my legs as people do (for whatever reason when being on thin ice, having heard the first crack – it does not really make them lighter though) and continue walking. Carefully.

Maggie Nelson does something in the The Argonauts that I find rather beautiful. She seems to interweave genders and describes the blurriness of roles in a calm and subtle way—pointing towards their periodic absence interrupted by moments where they reappear, often brought up by other persons. This might be to some extent because of the changes Harry, her partner, undergoes, but not only: it’s an interplay between those changes, other more subtle moments and the language Maggie Nelson uses to convey them.

In the beginning of the book the narrator refers to her partner sometimes as ‘she’ and sometimes as ‘he’. As a reader, I wondered what might be the reason for doing so. Whether it was simply the conviction to not reduce people to one gender or something else unknown to me. While reading the book I did understand after some time that Harry was born into a female body and decided to get it transitioned into a male one—to follow the feeling of being more one gender then the other and wanting to be seen as such by society as well. This last aspect is not mentioned as such in the book and might be read into it more by me than it is actually intended. However, the reasoning of this reading is that I think how one is defined by society plays such an essential role that it sometimes seems easier, when leaning towards one gender, to go so far, even if that means insecurity, a difficult process and dangerous operation, not to mention all the bureaucracy and so on. That is the case, when a person leaning towards the other gender does not want to always have to come up with the energy for fighting and correcting the images that get projected upon oneself by society, culture, codes and categories, time and again. Those codes and categories, which society and culture bear, are not bad by definition. Rather, the opposite is the case: they are necessary and important, and so is the awareness of them.

To get back to the reason why the narrator refers to Harry in the beginning sometimes as ‘he’, sometimes as ‘she’, it is because the narrator is going back and forth in time. During the time when they got to know one another, Harry had a female body, while later on and closer to the writer’s present, the narrator would refer to Harry as ‘he’. This is one aspect, which seems to be a more obvious one for the point of interweaving and there are other beautiful and subtler ones, later on.

Now this could be an example of the male in the female and vice versa, as Kathy Acker and McKenzie Wark describe it at several times in their e-mail exchange published under the title “I’m very into you”.

However, I believe that the book The Argonauts goes even further, even though the words ‘he’ and ‘she’ are used and there are references to the roles at different points, it seems to make the definitions more flexible, not so bound to the bodies and therefore allows these to be something else.

Some sort of third thing, which I would like to call “Das Neutrum” and feel encouraged to do so by having recently stumbled upon the book of the same name by Roland Barthes.

The ice I’m walking on cracks here –

at least for a lot of feminists, I suppose, and I find myself in a sort of a dangerous situation.

Am I a bad feminist? Not that kind that Roxane Gay seems to talk about, more like – none at all? Or even worse?

I bend my legs as people do (for whatever reason when being on thin ice, having heard the first crack – it does not really make them lighter though) and continue walking. Carefully.

I hear a loud voice coming from somewhere on land, out of sight, towards me: “You harm us.”

And I reply, standing with bended knees, in a raised whispering tone, afraid to break the ice even more: “I didn’t mean to, I just don’t feel comfortable with no oppositions to the opposition.”

This is ridiculous, I think, and suddenly smirk a little upon this absurd situation, seeing myself standing there on the ice. How again did I get here?

The answer has not to be waited upon for too long: “You can have that within feminism.” And I know that it is true somehow, but not totally – at least not for me. I clear my throat and answer: “I think I need something else.”

Without claiming to have understood Barthes definition of “Das Neutrum”, which he circles around in a somewhat fragmentary way—always pointing back to the middle of the circle where “Das Neutrum” stands, waiting to be looked at and defined through other topics/themes/words—I would like to grasp some of the aspects that constitutes “Das Neutrum”. Sometimes supported and sometimes disturbed by the book of Barthes.

“Das Neutrum” is not masculine, nor feminine. It knows about these characteristics and is familiar with them, because it lives and grew up in a society, which operates with those terms. Even more so, they make it possible for “Das Neutrum” to exist. The reason why it is not just the male in a female or vice versa, is because those roles/genders, defined by society, seem to be somewhat equally present, not definable as either female or male characteristics and detached from the body the person got born into. Surely, only a minority of us will be able to live “Das Neutrum” fully, because the opposition female/male seems to be too anchored in the society and because the human body (most of the time) is too much human body in order to negate this opposition, but the definitions used are not fitting anymore and have therefore become something else.

They interweave and dissolve at the same time – till they finally become something third. Not the third out of three possibilities – there are many more I suppose, but the third out of the opposition I was talking about.

The third seems to be stronger than the gender by birth/the body and therefore it seems not to be too important anymore as a characteristic that can be labelled—this does not mean that labelling isn’t happening anymore, or that it is less irritating, nor that the problems of difference caused by the labels are less existent—the bodies are more like a necessity by nature that most members of society are either/or.

The personal pronoun for the term “Das Neutrum” should not lie in the grammatical ‘es’ and ‘das’ in German, which would be ‘it’ in English, all loaded with etymological connotations, but in a possible other word or rather many other words free of these connotations. It would be an alternative to the “Feminine” and “Masculine” and as such open.

The opposition and therefore feminism is still important and necessary and I fear it still will be for a long time in the future. However, paradoxically, it increases the gap, at least momentarily-/periodically and can give people the feeling that they have to decide on which side of the opposition they might want to place themselves, if not to appear ignorant towards or unaware of the problems of differences. That puts me into the dilemma that on top of having to ‘defend’ myself from the eyes of society already, I gain the feeling that I ought to be able to place myself on the side of feminism because it signals an awareness of the problem of difference and the willingness to work on them and that I fail if I can not do so, due to reasons other than a lack of awareness.

“Das Neutrum” allows me to be, despite the oppositions we work with in society, as someone with a female body I feel comfortable with and am grateful for, but feel neither nor, and to work against differences in another way.

I continue walking. It’s silent.



Photo by: Marie Høeg and Bolette Berg

The Best Reads of 2016

in Ark Review by

Ark volunteers pick and present their favourite reads of 2016.

2666 by Roberto Bolaño

2666Madness. Roberto Bolaño’s last and massive 900-page novel 2666 cannot, of course, be reduced to one word. But then again, why not? Does this one word not entail an implosion, the collapse of language into metonymic sliding, an utter failure of understanding that points towards the very void of meaning that is beyond language? This, in my opinion, is what is at stake in 2666. This is also, I think, what explains the American author Ben Lerner’s elusive and entirely-comprised-of-questions preface to the newest Picador edition. In many ways, 2666 raises far more questions than it deigns to answer.

What Madness? Femicides are at the centre of 2666, happening in or at the outskirts of the fictional city of Santa Teresa (a fictionalised version of the crime-ridden Mexican city Ciudad Juárez), 2666 epicentre. To be precise: 108 femicides are detailed in one of the novel’s five parts. Thus the reader must literally plough through 108 bodies, 108 different murders, in 300 pages. The novel’s other four parts include a group of European scholars and their fascination for an incredibly mysterious German author, a Mexican scholar and his daughter, and a vehement and veritable iconoclast who likes to piss on/near religious icons and then, blind with rage, destroys them. All of these things are somehow drawn towards the madness of the femicides in Santa Teresa. What is the connection? There are neither obvious nor complex answers readily available. Perhaps the law of gravitational pull towards incredible mass can explain things – at least, the metaphor works. But what does it mean?

I know very well that this is vague, but I hope at least it does some small justice to the word alluring. For 2666 is a well written and amazingly well-crafted thing that is well worth the time.


Nike by Caspar Eric

caspar-eric-nikeRarely do I read poetry, and when I do, rarely do I laugh and cry, but Caspar Eric’s Nike is a rare and unexpected exception. Nike takes the form of an 88-pages long poem with concise sentences that flow into each other in a kind of (understandable) stream of consciousness that makes the narrative go along in sharp digressions. The point of departure is, stereotypically (as the narrator also comments upon in the poem), a break-up, but this event is unpacked in ways that connects it with the narrator’s feelings about being disabled, the particularities about being disabled in a neoliberal society that values the usefulness of the individual above all else, and about the everyday banalities that unavoidably occur in these constellations. These themes are addressed interchangeably and go effortlessly together in Eric’s straightforward use of the Danish language, which sometimes springs at you with a surprising combination of words that create new images of banal situations.

This book only exists in Danish for now, but I hope one day it will be translated, because it felt like an exact autopsy of the trivialities and terribleness of our time, in which individual thoughts and feelings are inevitably enveloped by a greater, global political whole, but whose envelopment, despite being viscerally felt, are impossible to dissect. Poetry is the only thing that comes close. However – know that I am a terrible literary critic and that, if you read Danish, you should definitely read this one for yourself. You’ll probably get something completely different out of it.


I Love Dick by Chris Kraus

9781781256473Reading I Love Dick by Chris Kraus confirmed me in my belief that theory can be a vital tool with which to understand how we live in the world. But more than this is that we can have fun while we are exploring it. These letters from Kraus and her husband, the theorist and Semiotext(e) founder Sylvère Lotringer, to the enigmatic cultural critic, Dick, spiral into obsessive desire, and in doing so reveal something of the illusory nature of so many of the assumptions that structure our culture. That being, that we are rational actors of knowable intention when in fact we are merely good at briefly assembling the appearances of such creatures.

Others have already mentioned elsewhere the important contributions of this novel from a feminist perspective, so here I would like to focus on something else, the mode of expression that Kraus has championed. On a micro-formal level, this book appears unremarkable. The prose, while totally of a piece with contemporary art/cultural theoretical writing and memoir, is relatively plain and straightforward. But the way in which the book blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality, between essay and stream of consciousness, between sensation and its congealment as formal thought, resonates outward. From personal feelings of being out-of-joint and constriction, to the systemic structures of thought and relationships that limit our fields of possibility. And it does this while also being funny.

For all the appearance of transgression (a wife and her husband planning her “conceptual fuck” with another man), the strength of this book lies, for me, in that it seems to be a constructive project. Not in the banal sense of personal growth towards a pre-ordained idea of completion but, rather, in conjoining elements that don’t appear to sit well together at first but over time begin to blur into something far closer to my sensation of living in this world than any work that insists on the primacy of some singular ideal.


I Love Dick by Chris Kraus

9781781256473When a couple of weeks ago someone at Ark asked me which was the best and the worst book I’ve read this year, I couldn’t help but wonder why I think
I Love Dick is not only one of the best books I’ve read in 2016, but rather one of the best books I’ve read in my entire life. At first, I decided to freestyle with my thoughts, trying to justify my opinion with the first random ideas and emotions I could link to this piece. But after realising that I’m only good at freestyling when it comes to cooking, I made the classic top 5 list of favourite things from the book, which normally helps me in these kinds of situations. Still: too unspecific. I decided to force myself to think a bit deeper. What is it that Chris Kraus does in this piece that fascinated me so much from the first to the last page? Well, everything.

Kraus uses and develops the plot in a unique way. In my opinion, there is a plot which nevertheless is not a central part of the book. What we could generally consider the story (her [non-]relationship with Dick) is used as an excuse to let her writing and ideas flow and blossom: this way she introduces different discussions and topics, from Kierkegaard to the position of women in the art world, and even love itself.

Second, and possibly as a consequence of the above, this book represents a direct translation of the author’s perception of reality. The reader is able to fully immerse in the writer’s world but at the same time, the piece supposes an exercise of thought for the reader to consider such various topics as the ones mentioned before. In that way, Kraus’ excellent use of the first person narration and storytelling of personal experience is the way she constructs a voice both empathic and explorative.

Lastly, the mix of literary genres is almost a piece of handcraft and mastermind. The way she fusions genres seems to be impeccable and admirable. While reading this book, I completely forgot whether I was reading a novel, an essay, or a personal diary. I found myself completely and fully immersed in the story, a source of constant knowledge and creativity which I didn’t care what it was, but I only wanted to read more and more, and the more I read the more amazed I was by it. Yet it’s greatness lies not only in its quality but in its uniqueness. Looking at my bookshelf, or my friends’ bookshelves, or the ones at Ark Books I can’t help but think: I’ve never read a book like I Love Dick before.


See You in Paradise by J. Robert Lennon

see-you-in-paradiseSee You in Paradise is a wicked and entertaining collection of short stories set in J. Robert Lennon’s surreal and twisted vision of American suburbia. Each story constructs a bizarre, parallel world in which reality is both painfully boring and yet darkly disturbing: the lady down the street is having a funeral for the very not-dead family dog, and the magic portal that a bored husband finds in his family’s new back yard quickly falls into disrepair when chores like gardening and painting the fence come to prioritise portal-maintenance. The stories deadpan sense of humour and dystopian tendencies never dampen their emotional effect. However, Lennon’s characters never cross the line into caricature; their lives may be absurd, pathetic or foolish, but the bored housewives and sexually frustrated husbands are not so much harshly judged as empathetically observed. These stories will linger in your mind long after reading.


Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

el_jardin_de_las_delicias_de_el_boscoInfinite Jest reminded me why I love literature so much. The book brought back the feeling I experience less and less frequently as I grow older, in fact so rarely that I had almost begun doubting the realness of the ever paler memories of it I have from back in the day. Wallace’s novel brought me back the pure joy of reading. This pleasure of engaging oneself in the lecture which becomes so intense that it turns physical; the one capable of bringing about the distinct tingling at the mere thought that when today ends I can take some time off and spend the entire evening, followed by a half of a night, reading. And tomorrow, do it again. And again. And again. Until I finish, only to realise that I want to go through it one more time. Not that it reads easily: there are (often pages long) moments when progressing through the dense pages feels straight out burdensome and exhausting. But even then, the book does not lessen its grip. It evinces the same tantalising power emanating from Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, the one of inhuman imagination transposed with the pure ingenuity into the compelling, frenetic richness. Its fantastic scope and complexity, progressing through a (paradoxically!) coherent myriad of registers, voices, themes and cadences makes it one of the texts which is so much a whole of itself, it simply is so much what it is, that the only way to do its justice is to read it. And then do it again.



Go to Top