Occasionally overwritten but powerfully provocative memoir about death and drugs that is likely to attract a lot of attention.
A gifted young composer who insists that he’s “not really a writer” Cody was diagnosed with a malignant cancer that required a bone marrow transplant following six months of chemotherapy (“you’ll go through it too, almost certainly,” he writes of the chemo. “It’s part of life in the twenty-first century”). With medical expectation suggesting that he would not survive, he became involved with a series of women—romantically or sexually, often drug-fueled—in a narrative that would be deemed implausible were this fiction. The strangest woman who has the strongest hold on him also happened to be the doctor through his bone marrow transplant, an “emotionally unstable” partner who ended their relationship rather than face his death. Yet, as the author admits, “the morphine acted as the classic unreliable narrator,” as dreams and the drugs that induced them pervade the narrative, occasionally leaving readers to ponder the distinction between real life and the reality of what the author experienced in his mind. There are also extended analyses of the relationship between art and life—he’s as absorbed with Paul Klee and Ezra Pound as he is with the Rolling Stones and David Foster Wallace—and attempts to render aesthetics as algebraic equations. Some of the writing is maddeningly glib: “Times change, as Cole Porter and Eliot and the Byrds and those guys who wrote the Bible knew so well.” Some shows flashes of deep insight: “What else, after all, is creativity, if not self-permission to get something wrong, in order to subsequently reorder that something to get it right.” Ultimately, reader frustration will resolve amid the wild swings of mind and mood that the narrative captures, as the diversions of the Manhattan club circuit provide small distraction from the hard truths of mortality.
A celebration of the senses, the arts and life itself, within what the author terms “a story about God and vomiting.”