Letters to Kelly Clarkson will last even after people forget who Kelly Clarkson is--as an erotic monument, as a valentine to Bataillean abandon and excess, and as a document in investigative poetics that winds up linking what we want from our stars, with the giant battle that looms before us. "The battle isn't outside," Bloch warns us, or is it a form of reassurance? I hear many of the statements in the book with two sets of ears, one tuned to sensual pleasure, the delight in coming up close and personal to a writer who can turn nouns to hors d'oeuvres and verbs to artisan cocktails; the other set of ears is tuned in to the dangers modern technology imposes on its users--the speed with which the strongest love could wither in the face of Armageddon.
People will read this book thinking, wow, Julia Block is really crazy about Kelly C, and I hope the actual Kelly thinks so too. But there's another way in which Kelly's being criticized throughout, as though winning that darn contest and then touring the country in hideous stadiums as part of an Idol tour wasn't good enough, somehow. There's a panoply of questions the phenomenon of Kelly Clarkson raises: Kelly's own debated sexuality, her assurance and her class--the contradictions of her acting like a woman wounded in love and her admission that she's never loved anyone. Questions of sincerity and authenticity, the sort Lionel Trilling loved to raise. Most stars have something phony about them, otherwise we couldn't care for them as much as we do, but Julia Bloch goes up and down the intellectual and emotional gamut of trying to work out the value in "femininity's dystopic embrace as it it were a big clammy hand from the deep."
It may seem like froufrou to those of you who never loved a star, but actually the deepest parts of ourselves, and the ugliest parts of our social spaces, is what is invested in such poetry. Bloch is an amazing young writer who could do just about anything, but she decided to write a cockeyed masterpiece instead.