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Posts tagged ‘narration’

Digging The Vein by Tony O’Neill

digging the vein

Digging The Vein by Tony O’Neill is a fascinating insight into the grim and despairing world of a heroin and class-A drug addict. Published by Wrecking Ball Press, the book explores the extreme highs and lows of human existence and shines a light on the rapid spiral into depression and degradation that drug addition can cause.

On a relentless Los Angeles summer day, you walk barefoot over broken glass and melting tarmac to meet your connection, praying that he will extend your line of credit to one more bag of heroin. You are alone, penniless, and wracked by violent withdrawals. Last night you robbed a psychotic crack dealer named Shakespeare, and had to abandon your apartment for fear of reprisals…

The novel is set in Hollywood, but the setting is far from bright. There are a lot of gritty scenes in this book, but what the author does brilliantly is show the reader how the addict feels about the drugs he’s taking. We know what he’s doing and that he’s poisoning his deteriorating body. Instead of being explicit and saying “I was hooked on drugs, I loved them more than I loved myself,” the author SHOWS the reader rather than TELLS. He does this by describing the drugs and the drug-taking process in an almost poetic manner: “There’s something in the ritual that you learn to love – opening the balloon of heroin and placing the dope into the spoon, which is stained dark brown with old heroin residue and coasted black with carbon on the underside. There is a smell to Mexican black tar heroin…caramel or treacle mixed with the smell of lost childhood summers. The smell of a strange nostalgia, of a yearning that you can’t explain…” A real show of literary talent.

The protagonist knows full well what he is doing to himself, he knows what his deep-rooted issues are, and he knows what is good for him and what isn’t. But the book doesn’t try to be judgemental, and it doesn’t try to provide a moral to the story. It shows the reader how rational, and at the same time irrational, a drug addict can be. He has no motivation to change his own habits or ways of behaving sometimes, and yet he’s fine to criticise others with no perception of the irony: “It’s as I’ve always said, drunks got no class to them. They’re worse than crack heads, stumbling around breathing their fumes on you. A fucking liability.” The author and the narrative work to show What Is, not necessarily What Should Be. In many ways it is a breath of fresh air from the normal format of a novel.

One thing which I would have liked to have seen in this book is more of a story arc, or a plot, as it didn’t seem to have one. Saying that though, by its very nature this book doesn’t really have a logical ‘beginning’ or ‘end’ – it begins with addiction and continues with addiction. This is actually a very clever reflection of how life probably feels to an addict who just cannot find a way out, no matter what they do. The form of the novel reflects the unfortunate reality of some people’s lives. This book is an exploration of a lifestyle, an open window showing the reader into a whole new world, rather than one which takes us on a specific journey with a start and a finish.

The whole story isn’t completely dark – it features humour, loyalty, heartbreak, and human endeavour. I read it on a conference trip and must admit I sailed through it. It is very well written, rhythmic,  interesting. It is something different, and that, to me, has to make it worth reading. If a novel stands out in your mind for positive reasons and leaves a lasting impression, then the author has done their job correctly. Well done to Tony O’Neill and Wrecking Ball Press.

Every Day by David Levithan

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Every day, I am someone else. I am myself – !know! I am myself – but I am also someone else. It has always been like this.

Each morning, A wakes up in a different body. There’s never any warning about who it will be, but A is used to that. Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

And that’s fine – until A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with – every day…

This is quite a good premise for a book and I found myself really intrigued when I picked it up from the shelf in Waterstones. It was a good little read that entertained me through a bad week.

This book was enjoyable enough, but I feel like it could have been a lot more, or perhaps could have done with being a bit longer to develop things a little more. A (the main character who wakes up in a different body every day) seems to fall in love with Rhiannon in a matter of minutes, and the narration doesn’t really give enough depth for it to be convincing or gripping. That said, perhaps a longer novel wouldn’t really be a good fit for the YA genre.

The author is particularly adept in this novel at conveying other kinds of emotions though – depression, heartbreak, joy, drug withdrawal symptoms, low confidence and self-esteem. Levithan paints a comprehensive picture of how life can be for the average teenager, and how different life can be from one teen to the next. It was fascinating to see how he tackled the subject head on, and he does it successfully. He is not afraid to face the big issues head on.

I have to push harder to get Kelsea through the day. Any time I let it, the weight of living creeps in and starts to drag her down. It would be too easy to say that I feel entirely ignored. People talk to her, but it feels like they are outside a house, talking through the walls.

What’s clever about the book is that even though we get only one day with each character, the protagonist IS each character for the day and so we know them far more intimately than if they were just ‘extras’ in the bigger picture. Each character IS the bigger picture.

While not one of my favourite books this year, it’s well written and, as I say, enjoyable enough. Brilliant for Young Adults, but I think as I get older, my reading tastes are getting older too. *sobs*

What did you think of this? Am I completely wrong? Has anyone read the sequel? Should I give it a shot? Please comment below!

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