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Tao Lin

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Tao Lin

Tao Lin

Tao Lin is the Brooklyn based author of a novel, Eeeee Eee Eeee, a collection of short stories, Bed, and two collections of poems, You Are a Little Bit Happier Than I Am and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.  He has another book coming out soon that is supposedly called Richard Yates, though at a recent reading he told me it was going to be called Werner Herzog.

Now, the thing I am required to mention here, the “hook” of this post, is that Lin made (internet) headlines a few months ago by selling shares in his forthcoming novel, the idea being that in turn for supporting Lin financially through the writing of the novel, investors would share in the novel’s eventual yield.  Much has been made about this bold move in the “blogosphere,” which was surely Lin’s plan all along, but I’ll reserve my judgment except to say that I think the whole thing is the perfect embodiment of what Lin is, a man whose talents lie more in self-promotion than writing.

Not that Lin is a bad writer.  In fact he can be good and sometimes even great.  Or at least interesting, original, genuine, which is all at least as good as being “good.”  When he’s at his best he manages to connect to that part of us that is, in one way or another, permanently bored and mildly nihilistic, and Lin helps us laugh at/with this odd part of our identity. Here’s an example, from the first story in Bed:

Though if love was an animal, Garret knew, it would probably be the Loch Ness Monster. If it didn’t exist, that didn’t matter. People made models of it, put it in the water, and took photos. The hoax of it was good enough. The idea of it. Though some people feared it, wished it would just go away, had their lives insured against being eaten alive by it.

Lin is the best author to come from a 20-something writer movement that could be called “depressocore,” if they don’t already have a name, and seems to be based primarily in Brooklyn (gasp).  The subjects for these authors (who include but are not limited to Ellen Kennedy, Brandon Gorrell, Zachary German, as well as Lin) are primarily depression, depression, loneliness, and depression.  They write like if Ernest Hemingway didn’t strive for truth but instead just went to Walmart.  There are no capital letters in their blogs, which somehow all look like American Apparel products.

But Lin is not only the best writer from this movement, he is also far away the most successful, and this actually has little to nothing to do with his ability as a writer.  Lin is an old school self-promoter in the internet age, constantly giving out free copies of his books, pulling online stunts like the share selling fiasco, and even mobilizing a small posse of groupies (“interns” he calls them) to promote his books on blogs, message boards, and especially to the editors at gawker.  The irony of Lin putting himself out there so much is that, as you can see for yourself in the below links, Lin’s writing is all about being awkward and wracked by anxiety— to the point of paralysis, for some of his characters.  But maybe being exhibitionist about your nervousness isn’t ironic anymore.  After all, artists have been selling anxiety since Kafka, and in some (e.g. Rivers Cuomo) aspiring towards increased sales has become a sort of singular escape from insecurity.  For a generation that posts every single detail of their life on facebook, myspace, livejournal, twitter, and youtube, maybe being anxious and depressed isn’t as weird as being anxious and depressed and not telling everybody about it.

Here’s that first story from Bed, which contains the excerpt posted above.  It’s a great example of his strengths (and weaknesses) and probably the best thing he’s written.

A poem called “I Went Fishing with My Family when I Was Five,” which is short and dumb/funny but I post mainly as an example of how Lin is a very “internet centric” writer, and what that means.

A really hilarious essay on Seattle in the online magazine The Stranger, which seems pretty cool and a good website for if you happen to live in Seattle.

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Written by Peter Kelly

October 18, 2008 at 8:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

One Response

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  1. help me apply for grants and fellowships and things like that

    comment things i can apply for that i’m eligible for that give me free money, be specific if possible, if there is anything that doesn’t require recommendations that would be good, i don’t want to send a lot of emails asking people to recommend me

    Tao Lin

    November 17, 2008 at 1:25 am


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