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BUZZWORDS

PEDDLING MIND PORN TO THE
CHATTERING CLASSES SINCE 2000
by Andrew Gallix and Utahna Faith

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      [26.11.06] [Andrew Gallix]
    REPORTS FROM THE FRONTLINE
    Becky Ohlsen reviews Tony O'Neill's Seizure Wet Dreams (published by Social Disease) in Bookmunch:

    "...His no-holds-barred descriptions of junkies shooting up and, worse, searching around in vain for a vein in Seizure Wet Dreams are so detailed, so visual and specific that I reckon even somebody without needlephobia would squirm. The nasty vein thing is just one part of the grimness that makes up the book. There's also the whole doomed life of junkies thing, and the depraved and mercenary sex-for-money thing, and the no future, unforgiving isolation of the cold cold world thing, the we wouldn't do this in the first place if life weren't so sick all over (especially in politics) thing, and the everyone in the world is a junkie for something thing... In short, the many stories and poems in O'Neill's book add up to one relentlessly oppressive and depressing picture of junkie life. Imagine yourself, just for example, staring at the vein running up the side of your flaccid and useless prick and wondering if you could get a hit there...' Yup.

    Surprisingly, though, it's not all grim-and-dim -- there's some really funny stuff in here. The problem is that the funny parts feel completely out of place. (The other problem is that some of his joke Several of the stories start out in gritty reality and then go off the rails. One of these, titled 'I am a writer; that is, I write reports,' drags you in with its unflinching pictures of desperate junkies and world-weary dealers. The characters are believable, the action feels real, and the writing is sincere and poignant despite its harsh subject matter. But then suddenly at the end it devolves into an absurdist dream of a televised presidential debate gone wrong (or so, so right), culminating in an
    Exorcist-style crucifix penetration on stage: 'The president's face purses slightly as the Lord's feet creep into his asshole, nails and all.' It's hard to argue with the awesomeness of such a scene, but when it comes at the end of a story that started out all serious and absorbing and bracingly real, it's jarring. And O'Neill does that a lot. ...But when he's being straightforward and sincere, O'Neill can be great. The poem 'Hey Randal' is one that works, a lament for a long-lost friend that never abandons its initial tone just for a laugh. 'Almost Blue' is another good one, a story that captures the self-defeatist tone of an addict going through the motions of trying to quit without really wanting to, partly because he can't imagine who he'd be or what his life would look like if he did: It's a disconcerting experience when you've been shooting dope for a few years to get your first taste of methadone. You feel...nothing. You spend the whole first week waiting for the sickness to hit. You don't feel good, you don't feel bad, you just...exist. And then you have to figure out what you're gonna do with your day. No scoring or getting the money to score with so that's a good 12 hours of the day you have to contend with. And no sitting around, stoned and content or laying out your syringe and spoon and balloons of dope like a geisha about to perform a tea ceremony. What did you do before? It was a different time, a different person and you don't give a shit what that asshole did with his time.'

    O'Neill is at his best when he follows his ravaged, junk-sick narrators through their urban wastelands in a desperate attempt to find anything they can get to stave off the inevitable horror of not being high. They describe their own self-destruction and the way they navigate the harsh world with an impassive, detached tone that prevents them from ever sounding mawkish. O'Neill's flights of fancy are sometimes entertaining, but mostly distracting; it's the serious, sincere reporting from the front lines that makes the book."

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