Friday, March 13, 2009

Tao LIn Speaks

I strolled into the International Center to witness a librarian-like female host in a pants suit, stutter over Tao Lin’s bio. “Tao Lin is the author of, um, Eee-eee-eee-ee,” she said, confused by the words she was reading. “You can read his blog at www. heh-heh…heh-I, um, think there are thirteen hehs-dot blogspot dot com.”

Tao’s excerpt from his new book Stealing From American Apparel, was intensely amusing, but not very impressive. It read as unedited documentation of conversations between friends, who I assumed to be the group of plaid-clad 20-somethings surrounding me in the audience, since they were laughing especially hard at every quotation.

“’I’m glad fast food exists,’ Robert said. ‘Just the idea of it makes me happy.’”

Tao read in a repressed monotone—cutting off his own syllables—but there were moments that struck me as modern poetry: “As I basked in the blue glow of Internet Explorer”….”Mike sat on his mattress with his Macbook, staring at the ceiling.”

Ever since I discovered his poetry, Tao Lin has become the object of my fascination. This does not mean I think he’s a skilled writer. In fact, I would intentionally refrain from making such a statement, despite the fact I enjoy the idea of someone including Gmail chats, text messages, Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwiches and twitter updates in a novel.

His use of language is limited. He rarely uses any variation of the word “said.” Some sentences could use editorial guidance. His less than perfect writing speaks to reclusive post-college students in New York, and he self-promotes to the point of absurdity.

After the reading, librarian lady got back on stage. “Any questions?” she asked. The response was awkward silence, followed by awkward laughter from Tao’s friends, who comprised about a quarter of the 30 people in the audience.

Referring to a book Lin has advertised—but not yet written—librarian lady took it upon herself to pose a question. “Tao, your upcoming novel, why is it called Richard Yeats?” she asked. “It’s because I like Richard Yeats, only,” Tao said, “He’s not like a theme in the book or anything. And also, because it would be funny.”

That sentiment ended the Q&A and began the wine drinking. After a few glasses, I approached Tao to chat.

I told him that he was on my professor’s syllabus in a literature class. As a 20-something writer myself, I would be pretty enthused to hear this news.

Tao Lin stared blankly at me for a moment, then said "that's cool." He gave me a free book, and drew a cat holding another cat, or something, on the inside cover.

-Hannah Miet


Anonymous said...

sounds like a major douche... but a funny one.

Anonymous said...

post post modern douche?

Anonymous said...

That should be the title of the next book he publicizes before actually writing it.

Post Post Modern Douche (but a funny one) By Tao Lin.

Zachary German said...

i miss ja rule, ya know

Ryan Chang said...

tao lin is asian. ^__^

Anonymous said...

I am a Post Post Modern Douche (but a funny one) and I'm Asian.

mi said...

Hey Hannah,

We met at that reading. I was the one with the librarian roommate and who grew up in Yorktown.

Do you want to go out sometime?


914 523 7571

Travis said...

i did not wear plaid but um i wore a kind of faux tweed coat

the librarian-like female host in a pants suit cooked a kind of brutal quiche
i asked her for the recipe but she was so busy, she had to watch her one year old son

(he walked into a door)

the bodega across our steet is, yes, a shitty store, but it sells us our four pm coronas and so we are indebted to it

i do not use gchat (except for my lover, who was in spain and so we communicated through skype and gchat, i said i feel sick, she said, can we talk about this when you get to rome)

i thought that i had no questions so i did not ask any

i had only statements, but none of them were about tao (i wanted to talk about pet turtles)

the librarian-like female host in a pants suit's niece, though, she wooed my girlfriend and i and all we could do was offer our credentials and our vocabulary and she said oh well um i have to chase my cousin

he is
after all
running into doorframes

Teri said...

Dear Hanna Miet:

Desperately I find myself needing to raise an objection here; Tao Lin definitely isn't an unskilled writer. Actually, he's a well-established poet who enjoys artistic self-expression in presenting his art and literature. I beg there is a definite and weightable difference between the two.

Though one can get only a limited number of word counts out of a writer in a handful of his poems, a quick purusing of his creative sampler (BED, Cognitive Behavioral therapy, his published essay about levels of greatness American writers could achieve that earned him a recognition by Gawker...among many others) would reveal that his vocabulary and sophistication in literature surpass by far anything that was claimed by this article. One could check the sample of those fore-mentioned work, re-published on his website, and read other works and his information, by clicking on the link right upper hand corner of the website The link is labeled "Journalists Click Here." All the information is very, extremely accessible.

To be quite fair, it could be a misrepresentation, in this case somehow intentional, of a well established poet/writer/artist, if such extremely negative claims of judgment in the literary and creative prowess of the writer do not rise from the well-weighted and accepted interpretation of his actual creative work, but in fact, somehow derives from some kind of bias, first impressions, and an hapless unfavorable interpretation of the poet's well-known (and often, worshipped!) post- modernistic styled delivery at readings. Without first referring to at least some of a relevent sources the writer plainly provides on his website, and perhaps checking his wikipedia page, it is not justified to claim a writer exhibits a sort of "limited use of words" due to anything other than the literary choice of the poet himself, and imply a certain hindrance and limitation of audience that do NOT actually exist, through this misguided impression; "his less than perfect writing speaks to reclusive post-college students in New York."

I am sorry, Hanna, but this article didn't have any bit of usually expected ethical/common sense considerations seen in good reporting, or even a slight sign of competence in evaluating Tao Lin as a poet. This is the first instance I personally felt that freedom of press, that carries with it such high degree of abuse in the name of journalism, might actually hinder the American quest for truth, art, and cultural development. I heartily decry the mysterious demise of any sign of a editorial guidance in this article that would have provided some kind of hidsight, after the fact. However, as a fair and generous reader, I won't hold this terrible instance of intellectual insult toward all Tao Lin's literary fans, which includ myself, against Pomp and Circumstance, this time. I'll keep my fingers crossed for better in the future. Thank you.

Theresa Tak

final thad said...

what makes someone a "skilled writer"?

I don't think critics will be able to judge the writers in this up and coming generation (the internet generation) in the same way that past generations have been judged. especially with writing that encompasses gmail chats or twitter. I feel like this is different than prose or poetry. Therefore it cannot be looked at by the same standards.

I think that a big problem with new ideas in any kind of art form or expression is that it is immediately compared to something done previously, rather than judged on its own merits.

Then again, I could just be spewing out dumbshit.

Anonymous said...

especially something that refuses to acknowledge heritage or what has come before it

Anonymous said...

Tao Lin's intern's intern's criticism is longer than the post is.

Anonymous said...

p.s. four p.m. coronas are the best kind.

Anonymous said...

what difference does it make

Anonymous said...

shit i was wearing plaid.

Anonymous said...

Tao Lin's a drama queen.

Anonymous said...

Tao Lin is, like all of you, just a kid. We don't know what will happen to him when he reaches adulthood.

Anonymous said...

...and anyone over 40 has seen young whiz kids in literature, as in everything else, come and go...

Some last. Most disappear. We don't know yet what will happen to young Master Lin.

Anonymous said...

Early success is perhaps the hardest thing for an artist of any kind to overcome.

That's Lin's challenge now. Don't envy him. He's unahppy enough.

Anonymous said...

In May, 1990, David Foster Wallace wrote to Jonathan Franzen, with whom he had recently become friends, “Right now, I am a pathetic and very confused young man, a failed writer at 28 who is so jealous, so sickly searingly envious of you and [William] Vollmann and Mark Leyner and even David fuckwad Leavitt and any young man who is right now producing pages with which he can live, and even approving them off some base clause of conviction about the enterprise’s meaning and end.” He added that he considered suicide “a reasonable if not at this point a desirable option with respect to the whole wretched problem.”

Sounds like it could be Tao Lin in a few years. Like Wallace, Leavitt & Bret Easton Ellis, he first published a book at 23.

Maybe he will endure. Philip Roth published his first book at 23, pretty much like Gore Vidal (19), Norman Mailer and John Updike. They lasted a while.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Tao Lin.

Women tend not to have this problem, as we all know: they are much less fucked-up than men. (Notice Wallace is only envious of other males), the weaker sex.

Anonymous said...

Tao Lin's already proved his skills and adaptability in different literary genres. He's already published number of notable books. There is no way he'd suddenly change into something different in the future. If someone thinks otherwise they're douche bag

Anonymous said...

We'll read poetry and nourish our souls

Anonymous said...

SOULS are the window to poetry

Anonymous said...


Richard said...
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