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lip lit: joshua cody, [sic]

[sic] by Joshua Cody is more than your average cancer memoir. It’s not just because it’s excruciatingly raw and distressingly honest. It’s because at times, while reading, you forget about the cancer. Cody’s book isn’t just about his battle with the disease, it’s about his relationships (namely with various women), it’s about sex, it’s about art, it’s about memories and the nature of memories

Cody, a composer living in Brooklyn, was about to receive his PhD when he pulled a muscle in his neck. He entered the hospital for this reason, and he came out being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.

His writing ebbs and flows, and has a luscious lyrical quality to it. Perhaps his background as a composer has ensured that Cody has strong instincts for the beauty and command words can have when placed alongside each other. There is more to his writing than him telling us his story, it’s about us experiencing his story.

There’s an excruciating scene in which he has sex with his friend, who has underwent a mastectomy, and Cody describes what her chest felt like,  “And I would never tell her this, but I felt as if my hands were gripping the eyestones of a skull.” Perhaps this is most fearful to read as a female. You hear lovely stories about men who think the hollows of their partners chests signify their strength, but a part of me has always wondered if this is all true. And while it might be for some, Cody has been agonisingly truthful. It’s a tone Cody maintains throughout his memoir. He doesn’t hold back, even when it makes him seem cruel.

The book itself has different elements besides text. There are photocopied notes his mother wrote while Cody was in hospital. There’s scrawled notes that Cody himself wrote, undecipherable under his morphine haze. There are reproductions of famous paintings, photographs of architecture, sheet music. There are footnotes further explaining certain events and statements. Cody is able to pull of the inclusion of these without appearing overly pretentious, and they do serve a purpose.

[sic] is a mesmerising book, but is not for the faint hearted. It’s for those of us who like our writing to be poetic, our hero to be a bit of a jerk, and our structure a little unorthodox. It’s not a memoir that will leave you feeling as if you and the writer have triumphed over adversary and learned a gazillion life lessons. Because for all of it’s showy technique and biting prose, [sic] has a beautiful quietness that takes you on an intimate journey, which is precisely what this memoir is about: the journey, not the destination.

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