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Better Than Heroin

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Another day, another Tao Lin interview (Gawker called him “irritating”, we call him irrepressible). This time it’s Tony O’Neill, who’s having a good week this week it seems.

TL: How does it feel winning Opium Magazine‘s 2007 Literary Death Match in Washington Square Park? Is it better than heroin?

TO’N: I feel like I just shot 30 golden speedballs. It IS better than heroin. It’s almost better than the feeling you get BEFORE you go score some heroin. I can’t believe it.

TL: What do you plan on doing with the $10,000 cash prize?

TO’N: I am going to buy my wife expensive shoes. I am going to go to Burma and buy a holiday home. I am going to start an opium farm. I am going to pay a crack head $300 to kill the president and Judge Judy. I am going to give $2000 arts grants to 3:AM Magazine, Dogmatika and Straight from the Fridge. I am going to invest in slunks. I am going to put the rest in a Nigerian bank account.

TL: We bought alcohol before the reading; did you do that on purpose so you could put something in mine in order to impair me?

TO’N: No, but the Xanax I put in the beer was to fuck you up. I actually just wanted a mental image of Tao Lin, poet and author drinking Steel Reserve malt liquor from a paper bag in Washington Square Park. That alone was worth the $2.50 I spent.

TL: Without alcohol do you think you would have won?

TO’N: No. Intoxicants, preferably the cheaper the better (I am typing this having drank a bottle of morphine based diarrhea medication) act upon me in much the same way that spinach does to Popeye.

TL: After the reading your daughter, Nico, talked to me and said, “Good luck.” Did you tell her to say that just to remind me I didn’t win?

T’ON: Yes. Nico has the ability to slick a knife in your guts and make you feel like someone just tickled your belly. That’s my girl.

TL: Has CNN called you for an interview yet?

T’ON: Yes. I just got off the phone with Nancy Grace. She called me a “motherfucker” and hoped that I “burned in hell”. Larry King is giving me a back rub as I type this. My honest advice to anyone thinking of dropping out of school at 18 to do drugs and bum around with bands in the vague hope of one day becoming a writer is DO IT. You too can live my fabulous life. And get a tattoo. And remember, if drugs were really bad for you how come Keith Richards is still alive, huh?

TL: Can you say something nice about each of the other three readers (Me, Maureen Tkacik, and the other person (whose name I can’t find; on the site it says Joshua something read but he didn’t) so we don’t kill ourselves?

TO’N: Listen, I’ll be honest: I only won because I bribed John Wesley Harding, and also because he liked my accent so much. The English are kind of like the mafia like that. Also, I had my daughter go up to all of the other judges and look at them with her big brown eyes and say: “My daddy says that if he doesn’t win we can’t buy food tonight. Can you make my daddy win because I’m very hungry…”

TL: Who was your favorite judge and why?

TO’N: I loved them all equally. They are like family to me.

TL: Should I have won instead of you?

TO’N: I think your performance was too ahead of the curve for them. I would have picked you. If you’re reading this and you weren’t there, Tao’s poem was one of the most moving things I have ever heard, and an art prank all rolled up into one. In the proper setting people would have called you a genius and other poets would have killed themselves out of respect. But like so many pioneers, Tao was misunderstood in this context. After the reading Tao found a used syringe on the grass and tossed it over to me. It was a Turemo 28guage ½ cc needle, the kind I used to use. I disposed of it properly. I imaged how ironic it would be that I survived years of IV drug use and had nothing worse happen to me than a couple of my teeth fell out, and then I contract Hep C or HIV at a poetry reading.

TL: Toby Litt chose your first novel, Digging The Vein, as a “Book that defined a generation,” for the “Now” generation in Esquire UK recently. I read your second novel and liked it a lot. What’s your next novel going to be about, the third novel?

TO’N: I just finished co-writing the memoirs of an NFL player called Jason Peter for St Martins Press. Jason had his own struggles with addiction and what have you. It’s a great book, if Hunter S. Thomson had written about his life as a pro football player it might have come out like this. My first priority is to find a sympathetic publisher for the book you read, Down and Out on Murder Mile. I think when I write my next book it will be an existentialist book set in a small town against a backdrop of alcohol, glue, late night buses and doner kebabs. Like if Hunger had taken place in Warrington instead of Christiana.

First posted: Thursday, July 26th, 2007.

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