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Guy Bourdin, 1980.
Guy Bourdin, 1980.
Guy Bourdin, 1980.
Guy Bourdin, 1980.
Guy Bourdin, 1980.

Cristina had been very sick for a very long time, but I did not believe she would actually die.

The fact that she talked, thought, wrote songs, and texted about death so frequently and obsessively seemed in some way a guarantor against it actually happening; and of course, like so many of her friends, I had come to believe (and wanted to believe) in the myth of her indestructibility. And then—“Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone”—it happened, and no one was prepared. Along with shock and sadness, I felt an overwhelming sense of disbelief.

In normal times there would have been a funeral, probably in a Catholic church, and then a gathering of her friends where we would have talked about how funny and wonderful and perverse and exasperating she was, and how much we missed her. Two such events would have been required, one in New York and one in London (“Americans don't get me,” she'd say. “Only the English see the point of me.”).These rituals would have served their essential purpose of cauterizing our grief, of acknowledging the loss of someone important and irreplaceable—of putting a full stop at the end of the sentence.

But the contagion that carried her off also made gatherings impossible. The significance of Cristina's existence seemed to have been obliterated by the enormity of the Covid pandemic: her death, a funeral attended by five people, and several nice obits, all came and went in the space of a week or two. Friends and discerning music lovers posted wonderful things on social media, and then the world, as it does, moved on.

Although we had only been a couple for four years, Cristina was, and remains, central to my existence. I found her mesmerizing, as did many of the people whose voices are heard in this book. She made people feel smarter, and made the world a more interesting place. After she died I had the odd feeling that something rare and valuable had been left in my custody, and that I should have taken better care of it.

I also felt that the gods had treated her badly, lavishing too many gifts upon her, at too high a price. And I felt a lot of other things—most of all that I wanted to have her back. Since that wasn't an option, I wanted something tangible, a sort of memento vivae, to speak for her, however inadequately.

The first people I sounded out were Lucinda Zilkha and Michael Zilkha, Cristina's only child and erstwhile husband respectively, whose approval and cooperation would be essential for such a book. (I also needed them to tell me it wasn't an extravagant or morbidly self-indulgent notion.) They liked the idea and immediately became my collaborators. Lulu generously gave me access to her mother's books, letters, drawings, and (above all) her laptop and iPhone.

Michael steered me to Ian Birch, our consummately skilled editor, and to the dazzlingly gifted designer Jiminie Ha. The project began to cohere.

I hope that this book will be a resource and a comfort to Cristina's numerous friends, musical collaborators, and fans. I hope it will be as smart, quirky, and beautiful as its subject, and that there's nothing in it that would have made Cristina wince. Above all, I hope that one day, some intelligent reader who knows nothing at all about Cristina will pick it up, start flipping through the pages, grow more and more interested—and when that reader finally puts the book down, she will think, “If only I'd known her.”

—Stephen Graham

“I remember wondering if she came from some social caste that was far beyond my own.”