Thursday, April 24, 2014

Lullabies for white trash

I'm reading Heather O'Neill's Lullabies for Little Criminals, in anticipation of seeing the author next week. I'm only halfway, but I highly recommend it. It is absolutely heartbreaking.

The worst is, she names streets that I know, and I picture myself walking along them with my daughter, who's just about the age of the novel's narrator, and, well, I well up, and I think how lucky I am.

A selection of Heather O'Neill's writing is available online:

The End of Pinky
Johnny really was a gorgeous thief. Tonight he was wearing a black fedora over his dirty blond hair, and his blue eyes peeked out from underneath. He had a tattoo of a swan on his fist. He had survived his father trying to kill him three times. Once he had held him under the water in his bubble bath for a whole minute. Another time he had thrown Johnny off the balcony, and he landed in a pile of snow in just his underwear. Once his father sent him to talk to a stranger wearing a trench coat with nothing on underneath. As a result, Johnny didn’t fear death at all and he had no morals, which gave him the wickedest smile on the strip. It was as though each homicide attempt had only made him more beautiful.
And They Danced by the Light of the Moon (a prequel to the events of Lullabies)
Manon liked how the word "fuck" sounded when it came out of Jules’s mouth. It was like something shiny and wondrous that lit up her whole being. It was like a little piece of dirt in the oyster’s mouth that would turn into a pearl.
Because I was from Canada, they seemed to think that I had never been exposed to riff-raff. I was like the dodo birds that lacked natural predators and so stood meekly as Europeans clubbed them to death. Listening to too much Anne Murray had made me soft.
On Deadbeat Dads
Deadbeat Dad typically wears sunglasses and leather jackets. He has long hair, even though he’s balding on top. He rides a skateboard at age thirty-five. He’s fit, and is often spotted in the playground doing chin-ups on the monkey bars. When children are with Deadbeat Dad, they always feel in the flush of a new relationship. Everything Deadbeat Dad says is a riot. He does the most exciting things. He wrestles snakes! He eats shark! He runs into Ozzy Osbourne in bars!
On Growing Up White Trash
I wrote about how the basement walls of my building were covered in licence plates and hubcaps. I thought it was beautiful, like Aladdin's cave. I wrote about eating pork chops while sitting on the sidewalk and watching a television plugged into an extension cord that ran through a window.
Poetic License: A letter from Heather O'Neill, on liberating the sixth grade.
One had compared feeling good to disco balls, one had written about a raving stepbrother who drank all the orange juice in the house, one had written about his dad letting him sleep out on the balcony in the summer.
Various stories on This American Life.

"The Little Wolfboy of Northern Quebec" on Wiretap. (There are several other stories on Wiretap, but they are not easily searchable, or findable; this one's a favourite of mine.)

Blue Met
Heather O'Neill is at the Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival, interviewed by Shelagh Rogers, on May 2. Heather O'Neill's new book is The Girl Who Was Saturday Night.

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