Biography of X
by Catherine Lacey
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Pub Date 6 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 26 Apr 2023
When X - an iconoclastic artist, writer and polarizing shape-shifter - dies suddenly, her widow, wild with grief, hurls herself into writing a biography of the woman she deified. Though X was recognised as a crucial creative force of her era, she kept a tight grip on her life story. Not even CM, her wife, knew where X had been born, and in her quest to find out, she opens a Pandora's box of secrets, betrayals and destruction. All the while she immerses herself in the history of the Southern Territory, a fascist theocracy that split from the rest of the country after World War II, as it is finally, in the present day, forced into an uneasy reunification.
A masterfully constructed, counter-factual literary adventure, complete with original images assembled by X's widow, Biography of X follows a grieving wife seeking to understand the woman who enthralled her. CM traces X's peripatetic trajectory over decades, from Europe to the ruins of America's divided territories, and through her collaborations and feuds with everyone from David Bowie and Tom Waits to Susan Sontag and Kathy Acker. And when she finally understands the scope of X's defining artistic project, CM realises her wife's deceptions were far crueller than she imagined.
Pulsing with suspense and intellect, Biography of X is a roaring epic that plumbs the depths of grief, art and love, and that introduces an unforgettable character who shows us the fallibility of the stories we craft for ourselves.
'Biography of X is the most ambitious book I've ever read from a writer of my own generation. Epic world-building revealed through intimate emotion and dangerously honed sentences; a story that mixes fact and fiction to create a new register of truth, a register that belongs entirely to Catherine Lacey. I'm awed' Torrey Peters
'2 A triumphant high-wire act: all the breadth of a 19th century classic with the propulsiveness of a psychological thriller. I stayed up too late, wishing to uncover X's secrets alongside the narrator' Sara Novic