A review of
The Autobiography of Jenny X
by Lisa Dierbeck
The “Bond Street Aktionists” of Lisa Dierbeck’s second novel, The Autobiography of Jenny X, are a group of self-styled “radical peace activists” led by Christopher Benedict, a child of privilege turned drug dealer, who believes in “art as a transgression” as a “profound visceral experience.” It’s an attractive stance to his fifteen-year-old girlfriend, Jenny, whom he picked up at the Second Chance Society charity for inner-city girls, but not one that seems borne out by the art they produce. The group’s most notable “aktion,” a touring piece called “A Wanted Man,” a derivative and rather banal happening of the old school, does finally live up to this vision, but only accidentally.
A staging goes violently awry when Christopher allows a maimed, mentally ill female army veteran to participate. As a result, Christopher is sent to jail, and Jenny reinvents herself as Nadia Larini, wealthy heir to displaced white Russians. When Christopher is released twenty years later, he finds himself in an unrecognizable world of iPads and McMansions, and no one gives a damn about the Aktionists. Nadia, meanwhile, leads a life of bourgeois privilege, with three children and a doctor husband.
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