Monday, March 15, 2010
Bill Bailey by Tony O'Neill

Bill Bailey by Tony O'Neill
Black Bile’s One-off Chapbook Series 3
Black Bile Press, 16pp, $5.00 (CAN)

Review by Mark McCawley

Tony O'Neill is among the new vanguard of contemporary urban post-realist writers writing since the turn of the millennium. His fiction is raw, honest, unpretentious, unsympathetic and completely unapologetic in it's use of sex and violence. O'Neill deftly explores and examines the underside of modern urban life with dark, sardonic humour and a mordant insight which only a past substance user and abuser can possess.

In Bill Bailey, O'Neill gives us a violence and lust-filled story which follows O'Neill's unnamed narrator through a single alcohol-fuelled day in Hollywood. As with much contemporary urban fiction, the setting functions almost as a character onto itself - Hollywood's urban decay a microcosm for any urban center. O'Neill's further use of post-apocalyptic imagery gives the story an almost cinematic feel akin to George A. Romero and John Carpenter, with a dash of David Cronenberg:

"...death was everywhere. It was in the air. It clung to my clothes like last night's cigarettes. I stunk like a butcher's window; I reeked of death from the inside out." (p.5)

The city defines O'Neill's characters, moulds them, gives birth to them - the ultimately deforms them: "A construction worker with a gimp neck and a stutter", "a regular called Mickey who had busted, snaggled teeth and could quote long passages from Kierkegaard."

Throughout the story, O'Neill has a specific goal in mind with the character of Lupita. She is the narrator's primary focus, his obsession, the promise of sex.

Lupita "was a gleaming machine and the ass was the piston, the heart of it all. Up, down, up, down..." but she was flawed, too: She had bad teeth "that seemed too big for her mouth and too much make up. The rest of her could not live up to the promise of her ass...So maybe I was in luck after all."

From this point on O'Neill delivers a cautionary tale, a warning: be careful what you obsess over, covet, or desire.

You just might get it.


Bill Bailey by Tony O'Neill is part of the Black Bile Press One-offs Chapbooks Series Three (also featuring Nathaniel George Moore and Julie McArthur).

Order all three books for only $10.00 (plus $2.00 postage), for a ridiculously good final price of $12.00 for all three books. Or order one chapbook (please specify the title) for $6.00 ($5.00 for the book, plus $1.00 postage). US orders, the same price applies, as the exchange rate to Canadian currency will cover the higher postal costs. UK and RoW orders, please email for the price in your currency.

Order by sending a cheque (made payable to M. Firth) to:

Matthew Firth
Black Bile Press
573 Gainsborough Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario


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