This is a picture of Tao Lin:
This is a picture of Tao Lin’s most recent book:
…which is the novella Shoplifting From American Apparel, which I reviewed here for your extreme pleasure.
But! More importantly, for today anyway, is this book:
…which is Bed, Tao Lin’s first collection of short stories.
After I read/reviewed SFAA, Tao was kind enough to send it to me and this, this bit of bloggery that you’re currently reading, is going to swell and blossom into a review of said collection of short stories. That review will be called: Cull the Steal Heart, Melt the Ice one, Love the Weak Thing; Say Nothing of Consolation, but Irrelevance, Disaster, and Nonextistence; Have No Hope or Hate – Nothing; Ruin Yourself Exclusively, Completely, and Whenever Possible. It’s also the quite charming title of one of the stories in the collection.
Before I really start, I want to share that infamous Miranda July quote with you about Tao Lin: “Tao Lin writes from moods that less radical writers would let pass—from laziness, from vacancy, from boredom. And it turns out that his report from these places is moving and necessary, not to mention frequently hilarious.”
A lazy writer/reviewer/blogger would just post that quote and call it a day. Miranda July is right about a lot of things usually, and in this case, Tao Lin included.
Okay, enough foreplay, a review:
The characters in Bed are people like you and I, most likely, in their early twenties, and primarily from Florida and going to school in New York. Or having moved back to Florida afterward. There’s a different writer on work here than in play in SFAA and Eeeee Eee Eeee, and Tao Lin is doing acrobatic work with casually smart wordplay, showing us characters looking for something or running away from something, or sometimes just upset and confused and not sure which they should be doing. They think a lot and they observe but mostly they feel things. They exist in relationships that are stressed and strange and in different stages of coming to an end.
There are some variations on this essential theme, but there is also a sense of deja vu that can be felt as you continue through each story as you experience what feels like a different scenario involving the same elements in some places. I don’t think it’s enough to take you completely out of the world set up by each story, and you could make the argument that this is very much a post-9/11 book, even if it only references the events 9/11 in two stories, but there’s that same sense of dread, confusion, and waiting for something to happen in an existence where each day feels exactly the same.
You can find a table of contents of Bed‘s nine stories here, and online you can read three of the stories:
“Love Is A Thing On Sale For More Money Than There Exists.”
The aforementioned “Cull The Steel Heart, Melt The Ice One, Love The Weak Thing; Say Nothing Of Consolation, But Irrelevance, Disaster, And Nonexistence; Have No Hope Or Hate – Nothing; Ruin Yourself Exclusively, Completely, And Whenever Possible,” which is also known as “Leftover Crack In Red Hook.”
And if you click here, you can find Tao Lin talking about each of the stories, giving each one mini commentary and talking about the songs he was primarily listening to while writing them, all over at Large Hearted Boy. He also mentions there that a lot of this collection was written and submitted in undergraduate writing workshops at NYU, which makes the story that primarily takes place in a writing workshop all that more interesting and funny to me, and that he studied the styles of Lorrie Moore and Joy Williams while crafting these fine tales.
These are stories that I think the internet can understand, at least the internet elite, those who understand/appreciate/tolerate Gawker. People who know what it’s like to be a “jobless bitch” or have ever felt “shadowy.” People who want to try and understand things by talking, sometimes aimlessly, who walk around thinking things like “Motherfucker” all the time. If you know what the void is like, what it’s like to hover over it, to ponder the big issues over sushi, and to hang out with teenagers for the sake of companionship and to get something out of TPing a house, you can appreciate these stories. These stories are, whoever you are, worth your time. Unless you’re an asshole.
Two of the best stories in the collection are excerpted up above, those being “Three-Day Cruise,” a lovely tale of a family, starting with how everyone in the family meets their eventual demise and then going back through their entire lives leading up to a family vacation they go on. At the end of life, there is no more fear of death, they realize.
In emailing Tao the other day, I gushed about “Three-Day Cruise,” but really, I should’ve been gushing about “Sasquatch,” the final story, which is nothing short of beautiful. The ending is magnificent. Every story here feels like you’re taking a tour through an aspect of Tao Lin’s life, but in a few of the stories, such as “Sasquatch” and “Three-Day Cruise,” something else begins to happen, as if Tao’s journey as the documentarian, sharer of words and thoughts and feelings and experiences, a raconteur and writer all merge in a warm transcendence of transmogrification. In the last story, I feel he loses something that turns off most potential readers, the deadpan voice, the sense that he’s just collecting, absorbing, regurgitating. There’s a whole world between the lines of “Sasquatch,” shared with you in Tao Lin’s usual style, but conveying more than just cleverness. There’s something in that last story that will stay with you a while after you’ve finished the book, set it down, and reviewed it online somewhere, be it on tumblr, Goodreads, or your own personal blog.
Bed was released concurrently with Tao’s first novel, Eeeee Eee Eeee, via small press publisher Melville House, based in New York. For cool visual aids of that first novel, I give you again a picture of Counterforce’s own Peanut St. Cosmo reading the novel:
When he sent me Bed, Tao mentioned that it was in an obviously different style than SFAA, and told me that it was his “least shit-talked book.” You have no idea how much I wish other authors could be so frank.
But, as I said in my previous post on him, Tao Lin is an author who has always embraced the wide world of shit talking that’s out there. In fact, when he announced the release of his short story collection just four short years ago, he was pretty clear that he wanted all possible blurbs, from the good, to the bad, to the ugly. And let’s face it, to embrace “shit talking” is nothing short of embracing the nature of the internet and the new ways that literature interacts, thrives, and penetrates it.
Prof. Leonard Kleinrock doing some crazy internet shit back in the day @ UCLA.
And Tao Lin is very much a writer who, if not created exclusively by the internet or ARPANET scientists based out of Taiwan, then a writer who has been nourished by the internet, who has thrived upon it. Someone who’s experienced it’s ebb and flows, it’s weird writer’s workshop vibe and vitality, from “shit talking” to extreme self promotion to the way that humanity analyzes and experience itself on the internet, always comparing itself to something else and finding the touching, slightly heartfelt emotion hidden there.
Put simply: The internet is the perfect metaphor for the world we live in: Terrorism is the same as heartbreak, isolation is the same as sushi, fighting with your girlfriend is the same as sleeping on your brother’s couch. childhood sleepovers are the same as movies you can buy from Wal-mart that make you feel good, Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwiches, aside from being delicious, are the same as humming the Star Wars theme during sex. Eschatology is the same as the Lochness Monster (or the Locke-ness Monster), Natalie Portman is always interesting, even when she’s in a movie like Garden State, and “it would take three Chopins to beat up Glenn Gould.” That is to say, these things happen, and sometimes they’re far away and sometimes they’re here and they’re now. It’s how you experience them. Sometimes it’s scary and terrifying and you don’t know how to feel or what to do and it feels like non-fiction, and sometimes it’s quaint and clever and a little bit silly and exciting, kind of like a story in a book.
Chopin vs. Gould!
Tao Lin’s website can be found here.
His tumblr presence can be found here.
His twitter presence can be found here.
This is his “tweet” about my previous post about him:
If you click here, you can see a video of his parents ordering at a McDonald’s in a semi-rural/mountainous area of Taipei, Taiwan.
If you click here, you can see Tao Lin’s reading diary.
If you click here, you can read about the iphone app he’s creating, entitled “North American Hamsters.” Previews: The “BSG” Hamster, which thankfully does not stand for Battlestar Galactica. The Morbidly Obese Hamster. And the “Winged Hamster.”
Tao Lin will also be featured in the upcoming Coming & Crying: Real Stories About Sex From the Other Side Of The Bed, edited by Melissa Gira Grant and Meaghan O’Connell. Also featured are incredibly talented people like Tess Lynch, Tyler Coates, Katie West, Stephen Elliott (and, by clicking here, you can read the interview with Tao Lin on Elliott’s website, The Rumpus), and Counterforce’s very own and very amazing, Maria Diaz.
And if you click here, you can find his short story for Nerve.
Write something about Tao Lin online. He will probably google it. Also, his second novel, Richard Yates, is coming out on September 7, 2010. The cover looks like this: