The news that Chris Kraus’ 1997 novel I Love Dick is being made into a half-hour sitcom for Amazon is exciting for several reasons. First of all, it will be directed and executive-produced by Transparent creator Jill Soloway, who has already proven herself to be an astute chronicler of bourgeois life. Second of all, I Love Dick happens to be a phenomenal, fascinating book—and one that seems perfectly suited to TV.
I Love Dick starts with one thought, I never have sex with my husband, that spirals out of control. The protagonist, Chris, is thinking about it yet again when a critic hits on her at a party—and though she’s with her husband at the time, her focus instantly shifts to sleeping with the critic, whose name happens to be Dick. And when she, spoiler alert, sleeps with him—it’s not enough. He becomes the thought she can’t get out of her mind, the all-consuming focus.
Chris and her husband start off start writing letters to Dick together, as an attempt to rekindle their marriage. The first half of the book is a series of scenes from their domestic life, the letters they write together, the attempts at salvaging their relationship—at coming to terms with their own capacity to hurt each other but also their capacity to love. The second half, however, is about Chris taking control of her own life, creating a narrative that doesn’t involve a male figure and instead centers on her career, her desires, the things that she felt out of touch with before Dick entered her life. As she descends into what can be read as madness, Dick becomes a symbol for all the things she wants in life, and hasn’t yet achieved.
The rich inner life explored in the letters within I Love Dick is unedited, brutally honest, full of wordvomit so raw and unforgettable it rattles inside your head days. Chris is a hugely compelling character: someone you want to hug, shake, and high five all at the same time. And the book has a kind of gravity that pulls you along with the character, leaving you in a pretty unsettling place. This is why it should make great TV: it’s hilarious and full of wry sitcom-ready observations, but also as morally ambiguous, existentially discomfiting, and psychologically complex as the best prestige drama, too.