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[sic]: A Memoir

3.16 of 5 stars 3.16  ·  rating details  ·  321 ratings  ·  60 reviews
Joshua Cody, a brilliant young composer, was about to receive his PhD when he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Facing a bone marrow transplant and full radiation, he charts his struggle: the fury, the tendency to self-destruction, and the ruthless grasping for life and sensation; the encounter with beautiful Ariel, who gives him cocaine and a blow job in a ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published October 17th 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company
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My curiosity piqued by some rave reviews, I picked this up today at Barnes & Noble, succumbing to a fever of retail impulsiveness. I rarely buy books in hardcover. And I even rarerly buy books in hardcover by new authors. But I was swept up in the hoopla. When will I realize that the hoopla should never be trusted?

I didn't get very far in this cancer memoir before I realized that the author is a garden-variety douchebag, unduly proud of his cocaine usage, sexual prowess, and scathing wit. Ok
Judith Hannan
Like the up and down flow of this book, my reaction went from one star to five. I wanted so much to end up at five because there is something so exhilarating about this book. The writer is clearly and original and often brilliant thinker and his writing is powerful and propelled me along. But by the end, I felt I really didn't know Cody all that well. The book was so far-flung that nothing was developed. There were a lot of fascinating pieces but there was little glue or, if I dare use such an a ...more
K. A. O'Neil
I don't think this book was written for women.

Or maybe it wasn't written for the kind of woman that I happen to be, at the moment. It's well-crafted and enthralling and almost beautiful. But there's this raw, I-had-cancer-but-I-still-got-lots-of-grade-A-tail-all-the-time bravado that I couldn't get used to and wasn't that into.
I really liked big chunks of [sic], Joshua Cody's highly-stylized portrait of, mostly, the two years or so of his life when he was diagnosed with, and battled against, cancer: his (understandably all-over-the-map) emotional journey; his (gripping and harrowing) medical struggles; his (often amusing) sex-and-drugs adventures as a thirty-something creative-type living in New York City. I also found big chunks of [sic] to be either unnecessarily confusing or just kind of annoying. Cody, who's a cla ...more
Loved it. Not for everyone, admittedly.

Fun to look through the other Goodreads reactions to this book. "Overwrought," they say. "Narcissistic," and "douchbaggy" and "pretentious," and I have to say, they're all correct to some extent, but so what? Should we ask that the memoirs we read be careful to please us and make the protagonists likable and not be true to themselves? That's not why I read (the occasional) memoir; usually I'm interested in an experience and worldview different enough from m
I gave up after 2 chapters. Words that came to mind: blowhard, pretentious jerk, unlikable misogynist with suspiciously Penthouse-letter sounding "encounters"...hence the quitting. Life is too short.
It takes a very special talent to write a memoir about almost dying of cancer that results in your readers hating you. It would make for a great creative writing exercise: "Write about a time in which you were deathly ill. Make your readers hate you." I doubt many writers could pull it off. In fact, Cody should have taken a creative writing workshop or two. I suspect he thought that a workshop would be beneath him, a genius. Or perhaps he did go to writing workshops and was forced to listen whil ...more
Rebecca Foster
One thing’s for sure: this is not your average cancer memoir. With an in medias res beginning and a stream-of-consciousness style, Cody’s book is to your run-of-the-mill cancer survivor’s story as Formula One racing is to a little old lady’s drive around the corner. His frenetic, drug-fuelled pace (that’s anti-cancer drugs and Class A drugs both) makes for some breathless, breathtaking run-on sentences such as this, as his plane is landing in New York:

you remember the odors and the way diner cof

This book is unyielding, complicated, (often) pretentious (Jesus, can you say that with regard to a memoir about one's near-death experience with cancer --- ?), and dense. So dense. In fact, it reminded me of W. G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn (one of my all-time favorites), with its pictures and notes and journal entries and tangents. I don't know if the essay goes anywhere. I don't know if we learn a single thing about Cody by the end. And I don't know if we have to. Because for all the
Hmm. I'm not sure what I think of this book. The beginning of the book was fairly gripping, as an examination of what it is like to be a somewhat iconoclastic cancer memoirist, someone who is writing the book *about* cancer diagnosis and treatment, but to whom the cancer diagnosis is just one part of his life, rather than what the book is *about.* The topics Cody covers are wide-ranging, pretty intellectual while at times almost smutty as well -- the memoir is an examination of love in the light ...more
I won this through a giveaway held here on Goodreads.

Cody doesn't write about his experience with Cancer in the sort of straightforward way many of us generally expect. Rather, it's more a memoir of thought, senses and perception. There were many parts I found delicious to read(his morphine-induced delirium, for example). I also found myself interacting and connecting with the book a great deal, such as listening to the recordings he mentions, envisioning his view of place I've also been to.

This book has rave reviews all over the place and I can't figure out why. Reading this left me breathless, trying to follow along on this ADHD ramble about everything a young white man thinks about when he thinks he might be dying. There's sex and music and books and art and it all could be really interesting if he just slowed down for a second and stopped viewing and judging the world through his own sexist, distracted projections. Just when I could settle into one topic he is pontificating on, ...more
CK Malone
Another quick read that I took much longer with than intended. It's not bad but I'm having trouble figuring out why I didn't like it more. Especially since [sic] is so identical to another book I actually liked...Ben Lerner's 2014 novel, 10:04. In fact, [sic] was published over 3 years before 10:04. Guess I should've read [sic] first.

In any case the two aforementioned books run parallel to each other in construction. Digressions on art, classical music, fiction/poetry (rather prominent reference
Was looking forward to a memoir of a cancer survivor and what I got was continuous rankings of art and music. Not what I expected. I struggled to get half way through but then he finally got into his experiences. It was better than the beginning but just not what I was expecting. Maybe that's my fault, but I was generally underwhelmed.
Wanted to like this book, but found my attention straying. Started as an engaging portrait of someone dealing with illness, became way too tangental and too much about music theory to hold my interest.
Mia Kim-solloway
Soulless, pretentious, windbaggery.
No-clichés cancer-memoir

My UK edition of this book comes with a Jonathan Franzen’s front-page endorsement, “Writing this rawly self-conscious has no business captivating you, let alone moving you. That it manages to do it anyway is a testament to Mr Cody's talent, honesty and singularity.” Well, considering that Mr Cody published the book, I assume that he has an interest captivating his readers. He manages this partially.

Mr Cody can certainly write. His prose is lively, intelligent, and enterta
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, though there were moments where I felt like I had accidentally ended up in an upscale lounge somewhere where men wear $2000 suits, and drink $1000 bottles of wine and discuss their art collections, and where they invested their fortunes. (In short, privileged and over educated, and unaware of their own narrowness.)

There were pieces of it that were great. Fragments. But the story of illness, I barely saw it. Maybe that's the beauty of it. The story of his illness i
I wobble between three and four stars. There are lots of interesting thoughts about art and, especially, its "proper" positioning in a life. The composition is collage-like: often literally, with scraps of journals (both the author's and his father's), photographs, and famous paintings. The subject of the author's cancer treatments pulses in and out among explorations of music, sex, love, and family--especially the author's father, a prolific but unpublished poet and writer. Pound and Eliot, the ...more
Glittering, facile, mono-maniacal, stream of consciousness.

Brittle, hallucinogenic, emperors new clothes.

Read, with horrified fascination.

Here's what I put on my blog (

The first was a book called [sic], by one Joshua Cody, which was very well reviewed in the Times, both in the daily paper, and in the Sunday book review. It so irritated me that I scribbled a list of my reactions, and wrote a long blog post about how horrible it was and how awful a person
Sam Still Reading
Dec 14, 2011 Sam Still Reading rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in the life of a guy
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: ARC from the publisher
When I saw Bloomsbury offering ARCs of this book, I was immediately interested. I loved the title and the cover and I thought it would be interesting to see what chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant was like from the patient’s point of view. While very interesting, the book didn’t quite live up to that side of things for me. This memoir – starting from the end of Josh’s first failed chemotherapy and finishing after his transplant, it contains many, many varied subjects.

First thing you shoul
It's not my place to dictate how someone should process having a life-threatening illness, and I recognize that not everyone is a model patient radiating goodness and light while having transcendent revelations and modeling saint-like behavior. But I suspect that Joshua Cody was a pompous, condescending douchebag before he got sick, and also imagine that he still is one. So while there were parts that were very well-written, there were other parts that seemed determined to demonstrate just how e ...more
Melissa Boyd
Like most great art, this work is layered and multi-faceted and stays with you long after you've walked away from it. Cody is honest about who he is and doesn't dull anything for the sake of a broader audience appeal- he is clearly a classically trained musician and classically educated thinker, therefore his work is the product of such a mind. My only reservation is that this work is so intimate that I feel I know him and that we should have coffee and I can't shake that.
So dumb. So dumb. It was hard to follow. The guy tried to be very poetic and new age, but it seemed too new age to me. It wasn't what I normally read, so maybe it's my own fault for branching out. Also had lots of language. I did gain insights about people who go through the battle of cancer and appreciate his willingness to share that experience with others. It is a brutal battle.
Ashley Godfrey
Picked this book up from the corner shop for $2 and I LOVED IT! Best book I've read in a loooong time... If I had one thing to criticize, it would be the excessive sexual scenes... JOSHUA YOUR BOOK IS BEAUTIFUL, YOU DON'T NEED TO FILL IT WITH SEX OK?
Richard Gilbert
Refreshingly different, [sic] is exuberant, even manic, while dry-eyed about Cody's plight in a bout with cancer. A possible cost of Cody’s approach is that I always felt distanced from him. How much “knowing” and liking a memoirist matters to you is intensely personal, but partly because of this, at times reading [sic] my mind wandered. Cody’s memoir showcases not only the rewards but the risks of a flamboyant persona.
A young composer's memoir of surviving a rehabilitating cancer.

Books about cancer are a personal string that I keep plucking, but this one just kept striking sour notes for me. This rise and cadence of this memoir wasn't what I expected. It was as much a memoir of a particular sort of life -- the drugs, liaisons, abundance of privileged intellectual wit -- with cancer survival as a secondary plot point. For pages and pages, I'd have difficulty following the twists and turns of topics broached,
Edvige Giunta
One of the best memoirs I have read. Smart and unsentimental. Want to teach it.
This is a great memoir, and one of the better recent books I've read period. For those who read David Shields' "Reality Hunger", this is probably the ideal version of the book he's a proponent of, one that is lyrical and creative and experimental and true. However, for those skeptical of D.S.'s thesis (count me in that camp), the book, despite its off-beat structure and diversions, is a very focused work that tells a satisfying, complete story. Cody's writing is wonderful for anyone, but it's ki ...more
Adam Tebrugge
I had read a good review of this book and so my wife bought it for me. Once I realized what it was about, I was reluctant to read it but decided I must give it a chance.

The book is certainly not for everyone. There is essentially no plot, at least in the traditional sense of the word. The characters may all be specters and the narrator is unreliable.

However, the writing is powerful and disturbing and funny and literary and captivating. This is a book to be read in small pieces and it leaves a po
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Joshua Cody received his bachelor's degree in music composition from Northwestern University and his master's and doctoral degrees from Columbia University. He is a composer living in New York City.
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