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Biography of X: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Named a Best Book of March by Apple Books and Amazon, and a Most Anticipated Book by The New York Times, Esquire, The Guardian, TIME, Buzzfeed, Electric Literature, Lit Hub and Chicago Review of Books

"It feels fairly rare for a novel to be hugely intelligent and moving and fun in equal measure, but with Biography of X, Catherine Lacey somehow—magically—makes the nearly impossible look easy."
—Lauren Groff

From one of our fiercest stylists, a roaring epic chronicling the life, times, and secrets of a notorious artist.

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.

A masterfully constructed 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 Bowie and Waits to Sontag and Acker. And when she finally understands the scope of X’s defining artistic project, CM realizes her wife’s deceptions were far crueler than she imagined.

Pulsing with suspense and intellect while blending nonfiction and fiction, Biography of X is a roaring epic that plumbs the depths of grief, art, and love. In her most ambitious novel yet, Catherine Lacey, one of our most acclaimed literary innovators, pushes her craft to its highest level, introducing us to an unforgettable character who, in her tantalizing mystery, shows us the fallibility of the stories we craft for ourselves.

About the Author

Catherine Lacey is the author of the novels Nobody Is Ever Missing, The Answers, and Pew, and the short story collection Certain American States. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award, and a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship. She has been a finalist for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, and was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times, The Believer, and elsewhere.

Praise For…

"Lacey imposes a truly outstanding narrative authority on her pseudo-biography . . . the audacity of this book, joined with its vivid re-imaginings of countercultural scenes from the ’70s and ’80s and its glancing intersection with current-day debates about art and politics, seems likely to bring her to a much wider audience. If this does mark Ms. Lacey’s deserved elevation to mainstream attention, she has accomplished it without diluting the vital qualities of confusion, yearning and mystery." —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

"[A] staggering achievement . . . [a] masterpiece about the slippery nature of art, identity, and truth." —Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire

"Lacey has done such a brilliant job of making X impossible to envision, impossible to feel or grasp . . . There is an ambition in The Biography of X that’s thrilling not least because it shows how endless, how elastic and expansive—at a time when so much storytelling feels constricted, tight and close on a single consciousness—fiction can be." —Lynn Steger Strong, The New Republic

"Lacey is brilliant. As in her earlier fiction, she is thinking deeply about what we give up to other people when we love them . . . in Biography of X, she has reached a new level of understanding." —Emma Alpern, Vulture

"Biography of X is criminally good, building on [Lacey's] previous five books’ fascination with the mutability of self with kaleidoscopic depth and astonishing propulsion . . . What is most spectacular is Lacey’s sleight of hand, inviting us to become engrossed in the unknowability of others, while gently reminding us that we, too, are unknowable—even and especially to ourselves." —Ayden LeRoux, BOMB

"One of the most inventive works I’ve read in a long time, Catherine Lacey’s latest novel is a must-read for fans of ambitious, genre-bending literary fiction." —David Vogel, Buzzfeed

"Breathtaking in its scope and rigor, this unforgettable novel pushes contemporary fiction to dizzying heights. A triumph." Kirkus (starred review)

"An audacious novel of art and ideas . . . The author also perfectly marries her [character's] history with her study of a shape-shifting artist, with X refashioning herself both to escape her ultraconservative homeland and to build a vehicle for her creative expression. This is brilliant." Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A tour-de-force in literary and artistic realms, this engrossing story of breakaway artist X will challenge readers on many levels." Library Journal (starred review)

"Lacey's tale is a lovely meditation on not only the mysteries of grief and love but also the equally mysterious ways of the creative process." Booklist

"Sly, brilliant, philosophically acute, bitingly funny, and a pure joy to spend hours with . . . Suffice it to say that it feels fairly rare for a novel to be hugely intelligent and moving and fun in equal measure, but with Biography of X, Catherine Lacey somehow—magically—makes the nearly impossible look easy." —Lauren Groff, author of Matrix

"I'm not sure I know another novel that manages to be so many books at once: a biography revealing masks beneath masks and faces beneath faces, a quest narrative unsure of what it's seeking, an impossibly ambitious parable about art and the enigma of others, an alternate history of America that serves as an X-ray of our own fractured country. Biography of X is a profound novel about love and what it can license, about the toll—and maybe the con—of genius. Only Catherine Lacey could have written it." Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness and What Belongs to You

"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, author of Detransition, Baby

"Biography of X is 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 Nović, author of True Biz

Product Details
ISBN: 9780374606176
ISBN-10: 037460617X
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: March 21st, 2023
Pages: 416
Language: English