Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hello, internet; Tony O'Neill's Sick City

Hello, internet. It's me, Tim, and I'm shouting into you from a new booth, perched not behind the purple-and-white screen of my own blog, Moonshot, but inside this one. Tracy and Mike generously invited me to post here some of the stories I'm writing every day at Moonshot, and also to post some things that aren't stories, or at least aren't stories of the fiction-y sort.

To start off, I want to say a few things about Tony O'Neill's new novel, Sick City.

You may be thinking to yourself, man, that book looks familiar. Maybe the garish ghostly face on the cover strikes a memory in you. Maybe you, like me, saw this thing mentioned on HTML Giant a couple weeks ago or maybe you just live close to better bookstores than I do. Maybe you have one of those valuable friends who keeps intriguing trade paper backs on the end table and likes to press them on you after some tequilas. Whatever, I guess. The idea here is that if you have someone recommending you this type of book you should be thankful.

I'm slow to gush over literature and I won't gush too thick over this set of pages but I read Sick City over the past few days and it's the kind of narrative that slithers comfortably into a dark recess you didn't realize hollowed out your mind. This is a caper story where the MacGuffin is a sex tape and the primary characters are sympathetic hardcore drug addicts who are sometimes sympathetic hardcore drug zombies and the side characters are the kind of people you can imagine smelling from a few bar stools over. Sometimes the women have penises and sometimes the blood stains on the bathroom walls are almost older than memory.

All that said, O'Neill's book doesn't read like a straight crime novel or drug story; there's an electric current animating the characters so that you'll care more about what's going on inside their heads than about the guns pointing at them. The writing jumps fast, and you get the sense that while O'Neill pays attention to his language, he's more concerned with what's going in the story than with picking the perfect poetic word. When you finish the last pages it'll be sooner than expected and you'll be wondering what you can pick up next that will carry the same sort of unpredictable weight.

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