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When the Sick Rule the World

(Semiotext(e) / Active Agents)

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  357 ratings  ·  36 reviews
A moving meld of essay, memoir, and story, When the Sick Rule the World collects Dodie Bellamy's new and recent lyric prose. Taking on topics as eclectic as vomit, Kathy Acker's wardrobe, and Occupy Oakland, Bellamy here examines illness, health, and the body -- both the social body and the individual body -- in essays that glitter with wit even at their darkest moments.

Paperback, 248 pages
Published August 21st 2015 by Semiotext(e)
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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Joel Robert
Dec 12, 2015 rated it liked it
woulda given this a 5 if not for two things

- i've decided to start detracting points from books for having personal anecdotes about Kathy Acker. i mean, i like Kathy Acker, but is it like a prereq for getting published by semiotexte that you have to spend at least ten pages of your book doing a hagiography of her? this demeans all of us

-secondly, the last essay is a brutal, 60 page slog of selective white privilege denial re: the shocktrooper role of white bohemians in gentrification. like she b
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
In the best of these essays, I never know where she's going to go next. And her style is such that she CAN go anywhere from anywhere. There's no slow build-up, no conventional progression, just sentences one after another driven by sound and sense and an unquenchable curious intellect. I love her voice. She's funny and she's not afraid to make Snow White and the seven dwarves into an all out no-holes-barred furry fuckfest.

"Whistle While you Dixie" - 5/5 I was hooked to her voice immediately, I m
oh HECK thank goodness for semiotexte this is one of the best books i read this year!! i knew i liked bellamy since i heard her complain about jonathan franzen <3
this is a handbook in many ways on how to tell what you are doing, as you do it (that whole form and content thing). beautiful anecdotes--provides a guide on how to notice things, how to value moments we want to ignore (leaving a poetry reading to vomit...) how to not take language for granted. as a whole the text boldly asserts tha
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This heady conglomeration of belletristic personal essays is insightful and unpredictable. Bellamy weaves words into sculpture, bleeds ruby red onto the page, and leads readers down hidden paths in the beautiful garden of her mind.
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure I like this genre of memoir, idk what it's called: Goth crit? Kathy Acker fan club? Theory for freaks?? But I did find a lot in here I liked, like how the Greeks thought women were just two holes connected by one big dirty tube. What really blew my mind was the behind-the-scenes info on the movie "E.T.", most of which I guess is available on the collectors' edition DVD, but wow. I guess E.T. was played by a legless 9 year old boy, voiced by a chain smoker in her 60s with her denture ...more
Michael Dipietro
Apr 14, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was very uneven - I appreciated its wide experimentalism but some of the pieces just struck me as bad writing.. In several the content gets bogged down by Bellamy's structural conceits sabotaging what might otherwise be good ideas. "Rascal Guru" is a good example of this with its relentless repetition. The title essay and the "Shadow of Twitter Towers" piece are astonishingly un-self-aware in Bellamy's overly simple and damning judgements of whole big groups of people. Other essays are ...more
New favorite. Essays on ET, barfy writing, gentrification in SF, illness communities--each one a surge, a mad rush of images and ideas. [8/22/2016]
//edit 10/10/2018 -- recently reread and was again impressed and inspired, thoroughly and on every page. One of my favorite collections of writing.
Oliver Shrouder
Nov 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
A really fantastic collection of short stories, and one of the only pieces of modern literature that feels like it uses technology and commercialism well - stories involving memes, Twitter, hypochondria, and everything in between. It is a real shame her work isn’t more accessible, i’ve not read a bad paragraph from her work yet
Nov 27, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: course-books
Me, giving another New Narrative text a bad review? Who could have predicted this!
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal. Yet another reason why Dodie Bellamy is one of the most brilliant prose writers on the planet.
Morgan M. Page
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
In When the Sick Rule the World, Dodie Bellamy attacks the essay form as she dips into and out of topics around death and the body - whether literally as she writes about the curse of the film E.T. killing her mother, or more expansively as she writes about the slow death by tech gentrification of the body of San Francisco. Three essays stand out for particular attention: her Barf Manifesto about Eileen Myles, the long and juicy essay on the clothes and withcraft of Kathy Acker, and the final ex ...more
Nov 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Definitely preferred some stories/essays to others - standouts were the Barf Manifesto, Phone Home, and In the Shadow of Twitter Towers. Truly epic works. This is my first time reading Dodie Bellamy, but now I'll be seeking out the rest of her writing. She's phenomenal. ...more
One of the best things about my insatiable search for different kinds of essay collections and memoirs is occasionally I come across books and authors I had never heard of before. That was certainly the case with Dodie Bellamy. Who dis?

The back of the cover calls her "one of the pioneers of the New Narrative movement and a powerful influence on younger writers" which, okay, New Narrative movement is just one different avenue of the rabbit hole I have to go down now. But also, I want to know who.
Ellen Shay
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow- I hadn't read anything by Dodie for awhile, and I now want to hunt down everything I missed and reread the ones I've already read. She gives us all the details of what happened and where her mind went, and I admire her ability to not yield to any internalized pressure to pretty things up. The title piece is about her development of symptoms of environmental sensitivity and her experiences with people already in that category, and her conflicting reactions to it all. It simultaneously elevat ...more
Jan 13, 2021 rated it did not like it
After reading the blurb and various reviews of Bellamy's writing, I was so excited for this book. And then I was immediately, deeply disappointed.

The title essay, "When the Sick Rule the World," reads as an uncomfortable, somewhat voyueristic, victim-blaming, gross perspective on makeshift communities of "the sick." All of the essays betray Bellamy's obsession with herself and her friends at the expense of true compassion or connection to the wider world, taking her privileges and frivolities fo
Caitlin Francis
Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I once again have mixed feelings about this collection. Some of the essays are phenomenal, Phone Home, Barf Manifesto, Digging Through Kathy Acker's Stuff, and The Feminist Writer's Guild. Others are interesting in the moment, but didn't stick for me. Whilst I find New Narrative fairly difficult to read, it is precisely the insight it gives you into the writers psyche and the opportunity to explore someone's mind that excites me about New Narrative - and this collection certainly gave me the opp ...more
Jaredjosephjaredjoseph harveyharvey
On his website my Vietnam vet boyfriend writes, "Please don't ask me what war is like. I can't tell you. If I could truly relate the experience I would be the greatest artist of all time. I know of no one who has done it. If they had, there would be no war." Because of its linguistic complexity, the average reader would find the Declaration of Independence more difficult to read than a novel ...more
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Gets better every time I read it (3x now). Dodie has an uncanny ability to zoom in on a detail within a scene to bring texture and depth to her larger narrative. Her voice and phrasing are impeccable.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
Collection of essays, autofiction, whatever ranging from the changing landscape/population of San Francisco, Kathy Acker, and her mother's death (particularly as it relates to the movie ET. ...more
Chris Nagel
May 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
The butler did it.

I don't think this book is reviewable.
Caroline Alkadi
Aug 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Loved the final essay
Feb 23, 2021 rated it liked it
I liked some of these essays, didn't like others. It took me forever to read this, because I kept putting it off. Thus the reason why it's three stars. I enjoyed it but didn't seek it out. ...more
Dec 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2021
Zach Werbalowsky
Jun 29, 2022 rated it really liked it
*slaps roof of essays* this is a beaut aint it?
Jul 08, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: revisit, 1
oh to be a comme dress in kathy ackers collection that dodies rummaging through
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 - this collection was super hit or miss for me, but the ones that hit really hit
Patty Gone
Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In Bellamy's book, piss and vomit sticks to everything. Kathy Acker's ring carries a stench, a witchy aura, long after her death. When Bellamy's mother dies, clips from the film E.T. haunt Bellamy as she tries to clean the mess. These essays portray an all-encompassing world, a world full of detritus, of stains that refuse to scrub off. The attempt to clean becomes comic, as in Bellamy's interpretation of the 'Whistle While You Work' section of Snow White, in which the mice and deer clean the di ...more
Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is it, the writing we need. Fresh, urgent, personal, radical. Creative and disrespectful (perhaps even contemptuous?) of boundaries and genre. Eyes wide open, refusing to refuse to see that which we are trained and expected to refuse to see.

The whole collection is great, but if one must list the especially favorite essays, one might start with: Whistle While you Dixie, Rascal Guru, Phone Home, July 4, 2011, and In the Shadow of Twitter Towers. (So many other good ones, though...)

Really spec
Steven Felicelli
May 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastically rousing book. Associative elegies about her mother, E.T., and Kathy Acker are among the most moving I've read and her ideas (derived from Kristeva's notion of intimate revolt) open a viable avenue for important (politically conscious, sans program) literature.

Her essay In the Shadow of Twitter Tower is simultaneously demoralizing and inspirational. Left me aching to join/start the revolution and pretty sure the revolution was not forthcoming.

This book will make you think
Vincent Silk
Sep 14, 2016 rated it liked it
i like being engaged by nonfiction, i like writing that is not straight up imagined or reality. sometimes the form was distracting, but overall the bits i liked outweighed bits i didn't.
i found there were some moments of objectification or victimisation of sex working women, which annoyed me. sometimes it feels like the semiotexte writers use "the figure of the prostitute" to try and say something about our corrupt unjust world, but for me it just comes across anti-sex work and pretty irritati
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Dodie Bellamy is an American novelist, nonfiction author, journalist and editor. Her work is frequently associated with that of Dennis Cooper, Kathy Acker, and Eileen Myles. She is one of the originators in the New Narrative literary movement, which attempts to use the tools of experimental fiction and critical theory and apply them to narrative storytelling.

She ist married to Kevin Killian.

Other books in the series

Semiotext(e) / Active Agents (1 - 10 of 18 books)
  • Still Black, Still Strong: Survivors of the U.S. War Against Black Revolutionaries
  • The Empire of Disorder
  • Reporting from Ramallah: An Israeli Journalist in an Occupied Land
  • Video Green: Los Angeles Art and the Triumph of Nothingness
  • Art and Revolution: Transversal Activism in the Long Twentieth Century
  • The Importance of Being Iceland: Travel Essays in Art
  • Crisis in the Global Economy: Financial Markets, Social Struggles, and New Political Scenarios
  • The Words and the Land: Israeli Intellectuals and the Nationalist Myth
  • Heroines
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