I haven’t been writing about books lately, so let me do some.
I have downloaded EPUB copies of Tao Lin’s Shoplifing from American Apparel, Eeeee Eee Eeee and Richard Yates by Tao Lin. These ‘novels’ are three of the most refreshing reads of the year. It like drinking water after drinking only Coke all year (wow, that metaphor sucks). It was actually a new experience.
Eeeee Eee Eeee is the oldest of the books. Didn’t like it very much, but it was a clever. I hate the chapters with the bears and dolphins coming out of nowhere a la surrealist non sequitor. I have read some books which have scenes like that, and although I do not particularly hate these kinds of sequences, I was just expecting something different. In this book Tao Lin talks about depression and boredom and hamsters, you know, the usual stuff.
Shoplifting from American Apparel is a novella, and it is much more interesting than Eeeee Eee Eeee in a lot of ways. Shoplifting was written in a style that is almost journalistic and affectless as reading the news off a week-old pambalot ng tinapa; or, I guess you could say, in a flat, dead-pan manner. It is the literary equivalent of games that do not need you to play them, because they play themselves like this one, or a song where no changes happen, just a repetition of sound. This novella is something like those things, because although it gives you a feeling that ‘something’s about to happen’, it really doesn’t give you anything, and you know it, BUT YOU READ ON. It’s basically like junk-food, substance-less, perhaps bad for the health, but we just eat and eat because something in it tells us so. A lot of people in Goodreads actually complain about Tao Lin being substance-less and ‘vapid’, unlike Dostoyevsky, and such and such, but that is precisely what Tao seems to be aiming for.
Of course, these are just interpretations, but these interpretations held out in Richard Yates, which people in 4chan and Reddit actually like. Richard Yates, like Shoplifting, consists of transcriptions of Gmail chat, texts, and short sentences which move the ‘narrative’ forward. Again, Tao Lin was faithful to his concept of writing process, because he knows that doing otherwise would result in a disappointingly sentimental plot.
I read something somewhere about ‘ambient stylistics’ of a piece of writing that is just ‘there’, being itself, unfurled, not really saying anything but expressing itself through its being there. It doesn’t have to be the center of the reader’s focus. Tan Lin (not the same as Tao Lin) said something about this kind of writing, in this age of language excess:
“the best sentences should lose information at a relatively constant rate. There should be no ecstatic moments of recognition … the most boring and long-winded writings encourage a kind of effortless non-understanding, a language in which reading itself seems perfectly (I say this in a positive way) redundant.”
This is a really humble and mature thing for art to be, since a lot of art are trying to look ‘expensive’ or ‘transcendental’ or something special saying ‘hey, look/read/listen to me!’ Accepting that art is really just art, just something out there, not as valuable as diesel or money or a placard, just art, that is a very interesting idea. Come to think of it, I didn’t think reading Tao Lin was an ordeal at all, a challenge in order to bolster my self-worth, to say to myself (or perhaps to the world, “look I read a book”)
Reading Tao Lin gave me the opportunity to feel and think about non-literary things.