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Biography of X

av Catherine Lacey

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
310585,565 (4.01)23
When X - an iconoclastic artist, writer, and polarizing shape-shifter - falls dead in her office, her widow, wild with grief and refusing everyone's good advice, hurls herself into writing a biography of the woman she deified. Though X was recognized 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.… (mer)
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» Se även 23 omnämnanden

Visar 5 av 5
Can’t fault her writing, characterizations or the seductive bibliography to this novel. I just did not respond to the alternate U.S. history and associated constraints which form the basis of the story. I was more interested in the narrator than what she dug up on X. ( )
  featherbooks | May 7, 2024 |
Interesting concept. Nicely executed, but a bit overwritten ( )
  BenM2023 | Nov 22, 2023 |
Biography of X is a slow burn psychological thriller that is gripping because of its writing but overall gets a little lost from the beginning to the end. You can't help but be I trigged by X who is being biographed by her widow. No one knows or seems to even care who X is besides a shape shifting performance artist. The tone of the book feels like a mix between Hitchcock's Vertigo and the movie Tar starring Cate Blanchett.


A unique part of this story is the backdrop of an alternative reality where a wall between the deep South and North has been built dividing ideological lines. I'm not a huge fan of dystopian fiction any more because it doesn't feel very creative or original most of the time, using too familiar tropes about the right vs. left. While this setting reflects some of this it does feel unique and the mix of fact of fiction in this alternative history is fun to delve into but it does meander through this part that does seem to get away from the actual story of the book.


The story itself is pretty dark. X is a cruel character who cares for little except for her own experiments and performances which explore the relationship between the self and reality. X's widow, is the ultimate victim of her exploits as multiple identities of X unravel through the book. ( )
  begoniajune | Nov 13, 2023 |
‘Biography of X’ by Catherine Lacey was Sunnys Book Club pick for April. I was given a NetGalley audio ARC (big thanks to them and the publisher Recorded Books for this!) The narrator Cassandra Campbell does an incredible job and I so enjoyed her embodiment of CM as I listened along to the physical book. What a wonderful experience.

THIS BOOK — GOD! I loved it. Talk about ambitious, this faux biography is complete with photos, scraps of paper, footnotes and more. I loved it. X’s life unfolds in a way that feels organic and had me theorizing till the end. CM, X’s widow, was an incredible narrator because she has a very complicated history and unique perspective on X… and it bleeds into the work, as you might imagine. It is told against the backdrop of an alternate United States and unpacks themes of queerness, revolution and religion (Christianity specifically), in that severed US. It also leans heavily into the discussion of Art vs Artist and the idea of an eccentric artist who is a WOMAN as opposed to a man. How much suffering, cruelty, violence and deceit is afforded a genius? Should it be! But X is also just a fascinating figure, I’d watch the documentary in a heartbeat.

What an achievement! Highly recommend. ( )
  jo_lafaith | Aug 20, 2023 |
After her wife dies and a biography about her wife is published that CM feels is full of inaccuracies and lies, CM sets out to write the real biography of X. But the artist known most prominently as X has a past filled with obfuscations and deceptions, not all of them done in the name of art. As her widow dives deeper into her wife's life, what emerges is a conundrum. Was her wife a great and multi-talented artist who acted with her art in mind? Or was she a narcissistic grifter who hurt far too many people? Or does the truth lie somewhere in between?

Catherine Lacey has created a confounding novel; the subject is largely unsympathetic and the narrator is made unreliable by her motivations and loyalties. It's the kind of novel that needs an assured and talented author to pull it off, and Lacey does have the chops. Adding to the mix, Lacey has also set this biography in an alternate history of the United States, parts of which are described in detail, larger questions are hand-waved away or ignored. It was a lot to put in one book. X interacts with pretty much every famous person from the seventies to the late nineties, from Andy Warhol and Kathy Acker, to David Bowie, Warren Beatty and Susan Sontag. Lacey sticks to the format and there are amply endnotes, often referencing real people who accomplished different things in this alternative world, sometimes flipping details, like Rachel Cusk becoming Richard Cusk.

So does this audacious project work? Yes, mostly, almost? The alternate history that allows X to be in/famous and allows her a large role in the lives of many well-known people, lessens the stakes of the novel by constantly reminding the reader that this is fiction. The world Lacey has created has some large holes that are never addressed, while other issues are carefully laid out and it left me increasingly impatient, waiting for the information that never arrived. This is a book that looks at sexism, as it exists in the different countries the US has split into, in detail but ignores racism, which seems to have never existed in this version of the world. And many huge changes occur peacefully and largely off the page. The US split without war, women took over art without more than an occasional article wondering if men can even create real art, and despite the fact that the US is now three separate countries, no one wanted names more creative than the Northern Territory, the Southern Territory and the Western Territory (I really had trouble believing that we wouldn't have ended up with variations on the United Republic of America, the Democratic Republic of America and the Free Republic of Real American States.)

Lacey is a fantastic author and as CM learns new things about her wife, she reassessed their relationship, that was structured very much as a traditional marriage, where CM gave up her own career and aspirations to be X's support staff. These realizations come slowly, having to penetrate the gloss that grief has put on her memories of X and it's very well done. And the endnotes look like they were a lot of fun to write. ( )
1 rösta RidgewayGirl | Apr 28, 2023 |
Visar 5 av 5
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The first winter she was dead it seemed every day for months on end was damp and bright - it had always just rained, but I could never remember the rain - and I took the train down to the city, a few days a week, searching (it seemed) for a building I might enter and fall from, a task about which I could never quite determine my own sincerity, as it seemed to me the seriousness of anyone looking for such a thing could not be understood until a body needed to be scraped from the sidewalk.
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When X - an iconoclastic artist, writer, and polarizing shape-shifter - falls dead in her office, her widow, wild with grief and refusing everyone's good advice, hurls herself into writing a biography of the woman she deified. Though X was recognized 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.

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