Aliens & Anorexia
Los Angeles: Semiotext(e)/Smart Art Press, 2000
Chris Krauss second novel, Aliens and Anorexia, is two things
at once. First, it is a companionable book; you will be very glad to think
along with Kraus, try on her comic, eloquent "reading" of contemporary
culture and the meaning of storytelling. Second, it is a performance:
Kraus becomes naked in public, and then more naked because she tells us
about her own failure, that un-American condition. Aliens is a heterogeneous
record of failure set in diverse locations, at once in the center and
on the outskirts of the avant-garde. "A single moment of true sadness
connects you instantly to all the suffering in the world." Taken
together, these failures amount to a critical position and reveal a great
longing for a true relation to the world. As alienation becomes more intense,
the ways to establish connection become more extreme. This makes the novel
a "case history," but the illness afflicts us all.
To elaborate her theme, Kraus meditates on the life and work of French
philosopher Simone Weil: Weils "panic of altruism"; her
sense that narrative is suppose to "to make things right"; and
her anorexia, framed not as "womans manipulation" or even
personal salvation, but as moral stance and critiquea state
of decreation. "Female acts are always subject to interpretation,"
Kraus writes, "Its inconceivable that the female subject might
ever simply try to step outside her body, because the only thing thats
irreducible, still, in female life is gender."
Braided into this matter are Chriss failure to market her film,
Gravity and Grace; Ulrike Meinholfs ghostly soliloquies: "This
is Ulrike Meinholf speaking to the inhabitants of Earth. You must make
your death public. As the rope was tightening around my neck, an Alien
made love with me
"; the story of Krauss Scheherazade
attempt to keep her e-mail-and-phone lover from the disconnect: "The
story had an s/m moral: it isnt chemistry or personality that counts,
its what you do. This is a quantum leap beyond modernisms
ethos of transgression, in which eroticism arises from disgust. Disgust
implies duality; requires content. But now that theres no longer
any meaning in the landscape, it is possible to fabricate desire anywhere.
The technology of s/m transforms neutrality into content"; and the
life and example of Paul Thek. Finally, we learn about a group that believes
it will be carried off by a spaceship on a certain night (in fact, the
plot of Krauss movie, Gravity and Grace).
This is true hybrid writing in which a whole genre can become autobiography
by virtue of the authors engagement.