Monday, August 2, 2010


Tao Lin asks/ed for a pre-re-view of richard yates from "the internet"

And then i wrote this.1

1. sincerity is overrated

HTMLGiant is interested in fiction. HTMLGiant (the readers, commenters, and authors of which seem to share a certain agenda and to whom i have- and will continue to - refer(ed) to collectively as "HTMLGiant") wants to be the 'cool kids' of literature. The elements of being 'cool' include heavy irony, a clear delineation of what is and is not 'cool,' a constant affectation of denying any 'delineation' or 'categorization' of what is 'cool', a 'canon' of 'innately cool' individuals/writers to worship/mimic, and having 'cool' friends. Tao Lin is somehow or has somehow become HTMLGiant's #1 'cool friend,' although if HTMLGiant could choose its "#1 cool friend" they would probably first choose Gordon Lish and then go to Dennis Cooper, who is not quite friends enough with HTMLGiant to be more than "this cool guy i know".

I've been reading HTMLGiant for maybe 1-1.5 year(s); i started reading it when i met some of the authors2 that HTMLGiant seems to support/be-written-by -- I probably started reading it mainly to ingratiate myself with these persons, which mostly worked. I think the entire experience of HTMLGiant can be found in this excerpt from a discussion about Tao Lin's "Shoplifting From American Apparel" posted a few months ago3:

"September 11th, 2009 / 1:24 am

I’ve never posted here. I don’t know anybody here personally
By reading htmlgiant over the last few months, I’ve become familiar with and thoroughly enjoyed Barth, Coover, Pynchon, The Believer, David Foster Wallace, Zak Smith… Not to mention the work of those who have contributed/posted here, Amelia Gray, Shane Jones, Catherine Lacey, Justin Taylor, really everybody. 
I was linked to htmlgiant originally through Tao Lin’s blog, where I was also introduced to Richard Yates, Lorrie Moore, Ann Beattie, Raymond Carver, Jean Rhys, and Joy Williams. 
I studied English and never came into contact with any of these authors. I thought contemporary fiction was dead and I only read Dostoevsky, Joyce, Balzac, Nabokov, and other canonical authors. I’ve also studied literary criticism relatively extensively.
And I just want to say, thank god I found these two web sites. I’m glad I have the foundation I do, but the authors I’ve found through you guys have opened my literary world view immensely. 
So, thank you.

September 11th, 2009 / 1:31 am

 sweet "

Excluding the title, Niedenthal's review refers to Tao Lin as "Tao" 11 times, but only once does it refer to him by his full name. Clearly the writer and (if there is an) editor assume to be "friends" enough with Tao Lin to skip the surname. I don't know whether this review really cares about the way Tao4 writes (in one page, these opposing out-of-context-blurbs -- "Tao's writing is not formula"/"Tao's already-honed formula" seem to suggest otherwise) or if he (the reviewer) can further his/HTMLGiant's relationship with Tao as a 'cool literary friend'.

There is the inevitable question as to whether Tao's literary and internet persona are separate or mutually enabling or opposed or whatever. I'd say that in my experience,5 maybe with the exception of parts of Bed, Tao's work is sort of unapproachable without knowledge of Tao-writing-as-Tao-Lin-as-internet-persona; Tao's internet presence is maybe larger than his body of work -- posts on have a cumulative word count around 150,000;6 including Tao's emails and facebook posts and previous blogs, it is easy to assume a doubling or tripling of this number, which certainly eclipses the cumulative word count of Tao's five (six including richard yates) published books. possibly including ebooks and poems &c., these numbers (self-promotion v. published words) start to get a little closer together, but i'm not nearly patient enough to find out. so the question is: does Tao Lin's idea of "Tao Lin" count as a viable literary device in a protracted character-development-outside-of-and-within-novels sense, or does his published work exist outside of his outsize internet persona? What's more enjoyable/amusing/engaging, Tao's books or "tao lin"?

2. Tao Lin's call for essays on his as-yet-unpublished work.

Tao Lin's internet persona has grown like a benign and/or malignant tumor and/or meme through certain circles and spheres and web 2.0 clouds. Reactions to Tao Lin are often not reactions to his writing but to his existence -- it is sort of a go-to joke to say "fuck Tao Lin" without any real comment about his writing.

Tao is very aware of this tendency and his perception of it probably oscillates between a funny joke and colossal self-doubt. the conceit of soliciting speculative essays is sort of a way for Tao to preempt everyone who will ignore the 'content' of Richard Yates and just use the book's release as an excuse to talk shit on Tao Lin. In thoroughly mapping the 'context', or, bribing other people on the internet to thoroughly map the 'context', Tao accomplishes two things:

1. Catches everybody up on his internet-persona-narrator / places Richard Yates right in the middle of his (Tao's) meta-existence / judges Richard Yates as manifestation of internet persona/ assesses public perception of his internet persona

2. Demands that Richard Yates be judged independent of his (Tao's) internet persona, because everyone's already said everything there is to say about his internet persona

There is a definite chance that this essay is going nowhere and will conclude more ambiguously than it opened. This is possibly a good thing. There is not a single line excerpted from Richard Yates on its dedicated website; one out of seventeen quoted reviews actually mentions Richard Yates. So: we (potential readers) are committed/ supposed-to-commit-to this book based on an idea of a person who wrote it and a possible vagina reference. (see cover)

Notice that "Tao Lin" is much bolder and larger than "Richard Yates"; Tao is bigger than Richard Yates or wants to be, maybe. the real author and the idea of an author and the way these things overlap on this cover. Richard Yates isn't, according to (the) reviews (i've read) of Richard Yates, a character or direct subject in Richard Yates. He is maybe obliquely referenced by way of one of his books (I think this is what Justin Taylor said). The two main characters in Richard Yates are “Haley Joel Osment” and “Dakota Fanning”. This practice of using famous people's names for those of your characters – as, clearly, these characters are not meant to be the 'actual' “Haley Joel Osment” and “Dakota Fanning” – is demonstrated really well in this story by Megan Boyle. I think that the intended effect here is similar to that of the 'apostrophe' thing7, wherein the author sort of explores the 'power' that a 'celebrity' name holds in the reader's perception of the character/person. Celebrities are characters created by publicists that exist mainly in gossip magazines and hollywood movies. It is existentially unsettling to consider celebrities outside of this context – often when a person 'finally' 'runs into' a celebrity, they are disappointed by the disconnect between the image conjured by their (the celebrity's) 'name' and their (the celebrity's) physical reality.

There is also the long list of book tour locations in areas where there are likely to be a significant number of people aware of Tao Lin, which is maybe the unifying thing on this page between the idea of the book and the book itself. the idea of the author must confront the reality of the author in the presence of the book which will be signed by the author. The overlap of literal and literary and literature. All of these words share at their root the Latin litera, meaning “letter”, the elementary particle of phonetic languages (such as that from which Tao writes), a character as a visual representation of a sound, a synesthetic unit that is impossible to separate into component pieces. A letter must always be seen as the figure and the idea. Unless you don't speak the language, or if your language ascribes unique phonemes to parallel graphemes. Or if you have no idea who or what “Tao Lin” represents, in which case this literal intersection of previously figurative elements is completely devoid of meaning.

3. the word "hipster"

this is maybe my least favorite subject to discuss next to philosophy. philosophy is boring and i would rather learn about some new kick-ass particle accelerator 's insights into the nature of the material universe than some stoned asshole's insights into the nature of his massive ego. Likewise i would rather party with my fashionable, attractive 20-something peers than spend thursday night at a sports bar complaining about hipsters.


here goes:

Carles from hipsterrunnoff won hipster of the decade. in this post he makes liberal use of Tao's 'apostrophe'/"quotation marks" device to elicit

  • a) sarcasm/insincerity/irony
  • b) recognition that Carles and Tao are 'bros' / the idea that Carles "gets it"

On the right hand of this page are, among others, the words "Pitchfork Media," "Zooey Deschanel," "Hipster," and "WAVVES." There is in this list a complex narrative. Here is an element of that narrative:

I went to college in San Diego, CA and at my college there was a shortage of decent bands and interesting people. I moved away from campus to a 'hip' neighborhood and started hanging out with the staff of the local 'hip'/'independent' movie theater. Zooey Deschanel was probably in a movie that showed there. "500 days of Summer" probably. A lot of people that worked @ that movie theater were either in 'cool bands' or knew people in 'cool bands.' One of these bands was named "Fantastic Magic," and they were maybe a four-piece band that played weird psych-pop w/ an accordion and lots of delay pedals. Fantastic Magic actually did sound sort of magic. One of the people in this band was named Nathan, who, after Fantastic Magic broke up, founded a new band called WAVVES. WAVVES is a really good band. "Pitchfork Media" found WAVVES' cd or single or something, and decided that it was the hottest shit ever and promoted the hell out of Nathan's8 band. Then there was this weird disconnect between

  • Everybody who was led to believe by Pitchfork Media that WAVVES was the Most Important Thing to happen to Music since The Beatles
  • the actual band members of WAVVES which to be fair was actually a really good band but probably never presumed and/or attempted to be The Most Important Thing In Music Today

This conflict probably manifested itself most tangibly in a financial context -- Nathan was getting paid a bunch of money and readers of Pitchfork were being encouraged to spend a bunch of money, to (respectively) deliver on / purchase this 'idea of WAVVES' that Pitchfork created. Then a lot of people started "talking shit" on WAVVES because of this disconnect. Everyone got confused and no one could tell if Nathan was actually good/cool or if it was just that they were 'supposed' to think that even if it wasn't true. The answer doesn't really matter 9.

WAVVES is often included/referenced-to in blanket definitions/criticisms of "hipsters". so is Tao Lin.10

"Hipsters" can be thought of in a reductive sense as a commodification of the fashionable/hip/cool people i was hanging out w/ @ the movie theater, much as "WAVVES" is a commodification of WAVVES, and "Tao Lin" is a commodification of Tao Lin. Like, these people come to define a term by habits and preferences and practices, and then the term/idea takes on a life of its own -- the concept "hipster" becomes as reality that subsequently imposes itself on those that gave it meaning. As in the difference between "WAVVES" and Nathan's music, there is this weird exchange between the people referred to as "hipsters" and the word itself, all of which is manifested/mediated in/by an exchange of money (American Apparel/Pitchfork Media) and ideas (Hipster Fashion/WAVVES' music) that is impossibly incestuous and unstoppable and all-consuming.

Tao Lin is in the middle of this vortex, and is probably happy to be considered 'hipster lit'. Carles' page references Tao's previous book, Shoplifting From American Apparel. Possibly Tao is trying to assert that the hipster population can coexist in a mutually destructive relationship with the idea, "hipster," that American Apparel tries to capture/define -- in shoplifting, you manage to appropriate the products of the 'capitalist system' without 'participating' in the 'capitalist system', but, paradoxically, in wearing stolen American Apparel products, you further their products as desirable fashion and further their business goals.

Tao tries to (succeeds in) replicate(ing) this entire process, but from all sides at once, as creator and hype machine and critic of hype machine and business man. Richard Yates is just an idea to me and Tao has gotten me to write 5800 words on this idea and the idea of him promoting his book, which i am maybe doing for 'hipster cred' and maybe because it's an interesting project. i would probably not know about Tao Lin w/o my "hipster" friends. We are hopelessly trapped in the word ('hipster') and the only hope is to half-jokingly acknowledge our fate while pretending to be 'over it'. Tao writes in the comments on Carles' page: "bros...". 'Bros' indeed.

Money, which I am trying so very desperately to avoid as a subject

I have up to this point neglected to mention: the $250 I stand to win by writing this essay, the fact that this essay contest will (maybe) sell more of Tao's books, the fact that Tao began the writing process of Richard Yates as an investment opportunity and the fact that I will get advertising income from you scrolling past the Google AdSense® on the side of this page. This pecuniary reluctance is I think a critical element of the hipster community. The hipster 'scene' inherited this figurative baggage from the punk 'scene'.11 This reluctant attitude has a great deal to do with the juxtaposition between the suburban upbringing of a majority of 'punks' and the urban decay / bohemian poverty aesthetic that defines the term.

Note the following passage from Bed, Tao's second book:

On stage now Leftover Crack’s bassist walked to his bass, picked it up, strapped it on, and stood waiting for the others. His face was expressionless and he did not move his eyes, mouth, or legs. His shirt said 'NO-CA$H.' The guitarist was asking the crowd for beer. Someone passed up a shiny blue plastic cup, but it wasn’t beer.”

(from the story “Leftover Crack in Red Hook”)

Leftöver Crack is a punk band from NYC composed of squatters and crust punks and heroin addicts. Stza, the lead vocalist (who appears repeatedly in Tao's story), has (according to wikipedia), as of 2010 begun to focus “...on other musical projects - such as [his (Stza's) new band] Star Fucking Hipsters”. Star Fucking Hipsters are mentioned in Tao's later book, Shoplifting From American Apparel. There's another essay's worth of connections to be made in the above few paragraphs, but I'm a little 'over' the topic, and I think i'll let you read as much into it/them as you choose.

4. Fuck Context, What About the Book?

David Fishkind says that he "gmail chatted tao." It seems like this is a popular thing to do. I haven't ever gmail chatted Tao because he's not on my gmail chat list and/or 'cause we're not friends. I am facebook friends with him and sometimes he shows up on my facebook chat list; i never say anything though.

Apparently, Tao has realized that gchat is a really good way to get dialogue for his writing. Large sections of SFAA were excerpted from Tao's gchat logs. One of the biggest issues w/ talking online is that you lose all intonation. it's hard to tell if there is significant emotional weight in what's said and a lot of things come across as maybe sarcastic. This fits with and possibly informs Tao's "buddhist" writing style, i.e. the practice of paring down as much emotional detail / 'textual intonation' as possible from his stories/characters. I think this style of writing lends itself really well to shitty relationships; shitty relationships are sort of an emotional void where you're unsure of what anyone is feeling at any given time and there is often a disconnect between "read" and "felt" emotions. Another element of Tao's writing is that it's deceptively simple, and, as such, very easy to imitate. Like in Fishkind's sentence:

"i talked to my girlfriend about the book and i think i said 'raw' twice describing its effect on me."

This could easily be a line in any of Tao's books that I've read and may in fact be plagiarized. Tao uses the 'apostrophe' thing7 a lot and also "I think" a lot. His writing is very confident w/r/t self-doubt/negation / crippling-fear-of-strong-and-or-genuine-emotions.

There is a Raymond Carver short story, "The Neighbors," where two people get locked in a hallway and crumple in abject existential terror. (spoiler alert!) Nothing really happens in this story and Raymond Carver drags as much pathos as he possibly can out of a small, seemingly benign scenario. Tao Lin's writing is similar except that it has a better sense of humor and his characters open the story in a state of existential terror. except, instead of collapsing, they just adopt a half-resigned and bemused attitude about the whole thing -- his ambiguous-intonation hipster antiheroes sort of hang out and try to be as 'legit' as possible as both a 'joke' and a 'serious goal'. i think.

5. Being depressed in 2010

"'cutting,' eating disorders, statutory rape, dysfunctional families, reckless shoplifting, 'mental disorders,'"

Tao Lin and Brandon Scott Gorell are prose bros (proof). they both write from experience (or at least write so convincingly that it is difficult to assume they don't have personal experience) w/r/t "mental disorders"12. Brandon writes about/from anxiety and maybe a little bit about/from depression, and Tao writes about/from depression and maybe a little bit about/from anxiety.

In the last century mental disorders have shifted in the public eye from character traits to 'diseases/conditions'. This suggests that 'mental disorders' are treatable and as such separate from personal identity. This gets complicated when someone's personal identity has a lot to do with their 'mental disorder'; also it suggests that, like a disease, there is a specific course of treatment that must be followed.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the name of a popular contemporary technique for managing clinical depression and also the name of Tao Lin's fourth book. The goal of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to achieve "euthymia" -- a "reasonably positive" mood. The actions of Tao's characters can sort of be seen as them trying to achieve euthymia within the constraints of a minimalist novel.

There is sort of a disconnect in contemporary psychiatry between pharmaceutical and psychotherapeutic approaches to depression. An issue with depression is that when you're depressed it is difficult to seek treatment for depression, and your knowledge of this difficulty/failure can be in itself a depressing thing. It can be easiest to cede agency to a professional, but this concession sort of furthers your perception of yourself as 'powerless' against depression. If you can take antidepressants to stabilize your neurochemistry, it limits your agency to swallowing pills. If you can participate in behavioral therapy, it gives you more agency than the aforementioned professional. If you get depressed when you're on antidepressants, it's just a matter of changing the prescription. If you get depressed with CBT, it negates a lot of the 'agency' you thought you had.

Tao's characters are lost in the middle of this agency-or-emotional-powerlessness-thing; they view/have moods with a sense of detachment, or try to. They get upset or happy or whatever with the knowledge that they are "choosing" to feel these emotions; there seems to be a conscious effort on their part to 'be aware' of their emotions and to strive for 'reasonably positive' ones. They also find themselves sort of powerless before strong emotions at times, 'surprised' that they feel strongly one way or another. (There is a small overlap between autism and severe depression, in that both the autistic and the depressed person have a very difficult time understanding or participating in or relating to the emotional states of those around them. Some people suggest that maybe Tao is a little autistic, but i disagree. I think he is just 'detached' in a very sincere manner.)

the depressed person is much more realistic than the happy person.

Brett Easton Ellis writes from a 'detached' perspective, but he tends towards a moral conclusion, like in Less Than Zero where the main character says how disgusted he is with everybody, or in American Psycho where Bateman 'confesses'. Ellis' characters exist in a novel world (shitty joke) of detached language and emotions only to experience some kind of visceral revulsion at the sociopathic sterility of their surroundings. I think Ellis' moral tendency is sort of lame, as it in a way rejects the validity of 'neutral' or 'detached' writing styles. Lots of self loathing here. The 1997 emotional brutality of “In the Company of Men is a similar study in emotional detachment without an express moral stance. Way better but also much more terrifying – without any morally upright character to identify with, the viewer is trapped in unwanted sympathy/empathy for/with detestable sadists. I think that stories without a moral resolution are more accurate, emotionally. An LA Times cited review of Richard Yates uses the word "sociopath", I would maybe look instead at the word “sadistic”. The Marquis de Sade is probably the most famous amoral author; but Justine is also probably the most accurate depiction of human sexuality in literature. Endless horrible perversions and gruesome fantasies, all eventually proven accurate by the popularity of very similar horrible perversions in internet pornography. What I'm saying is, morality in art is for the weak.

6. justin taylor

HTMLGiant will tell you what to think and they are often right.

Melville house lists their publishing criteria as: "good, solid literature". So we can assume at least this much about Richard Yates. "good, solid literature" as defined by an "independent press" born of a blog and based in a "hipster" neighborhood. Justin Taylor talks about “Lolita”. I never read Lolita which is probably a terrible thing. I read Pale Fire and it was really good. I don't think there is much in common between V. Nabokov and Tao Lin. Actually, i take that back. Nabokov was really into repurposing language in fancy ways, Tao is into repurposing language in very not-fancy ways. both really like the idea of the idea of their writing.

Justin Taylor describes reading Richard Yates as "an at times highly unpleasant" experience, and i feel this is maybe one of the few things that Richard Yates and my essay have in common. Justin Taylor compares the mood in "Hills like White Elephants" to Richard Yates. I was going to say something about this comparison but i decided against it. think of it as an abortive attempt. I'm obviously trying to cram as many terrible jokes as possible into this paragraph. Writing this essay has gotten so fucking boring. I think you, the reader, underestimate the difficulty of typing 3000 words with one hand and a left thumb. If i want to win, i need to make it to 6000 on last count. I would argue that i should get some kind of handicap, but i don't think it would go far. which brings me to:

7. me writing about someone else writing about me writing about about Tao Lin's writing.

I feel like i am in a foam room at a rave making out with myself. I am hemorrhaging speculative, self-referential text in a vast white ocean. The majority of reviews/contest entries that i have seen were heavy on personal experience; mine seems sort of formulaic by comparison. I wonder if i even want to read Richard Yates anymore now that i've parsed out most of what i think about Tao Lin -- I am still more committed to his persona than to his writing. I was taught that literary criticism is best when it arrives at a conclusion about the author's personal "ideas" or "worldview"; I was also taught that there is no way to "prove" any of these conclusions without contacting the author directly and, as such, the most well-worded, persuasive argument is usually treated as "accurate".


Enter internet and constant connectivity and instant communication. How does one read/interpret when the author is an email away? When the author posts a facebook update? Doesn't this sort of destroy lit crit? Is the author allowed to participate? If the author predicts all possible interpretations and argues with those who disagree, is there more than a single reading, that is to say, the author's reading? What about twitter? jk. But! Is there really any other way for Tao Lin to exist? Is his writing his own or is it lost in the miasma of internet authors with whom he's 'bros'? Is it right to argue a point with questions?

I think the answer is that nothing exists in a vacuum. Every piece of art and every book and every movie is a product of its environment. I could make a really trite argument about how the act of writing a book is sort of pointless in a long-term-inevitable-heat-death-of-the-universe kind of way, but that's totally pointless. I think a lot of people are sort of repulsed or terrified by Tao's attempt to shape the context in which his book exists, that the most important thing is not a solitary artifact, a 'book' that exists, but how it 'shares the stage' with the means by which it exists, sort of like if Lydia Davis had just "talked" about how The End of the Story was also about writing instead of just putting it in there. Does Richard Yates itself suggest all of these things? Is a style of writing a statement about a style of living? Can you find the universe in an object? This is so fucking terrible. This is what happens when i have to push to 6000. By calling it terrible am I trying to get away with terrible writing? Does preemptively voicing a criticism negate that criticism? Can't i write about something i've actually read?

writing about a writer

Also: By what authority do i deign to criticize literature? My writing is at best a haphazard amalgam of cliché and repetitive sentence structure -- I have, up to this point, 11 separate em dashes throughout this essay. I assume to be knowledgeable enough about the subject (writing) to lecture 'the internet' ad infinitum. All of this self-loathing brings up an interesting topic: "haters".

What is the difference between the "hater" and the critic?

The hater is clearly a product of jealousy and arrogance, tempered with spite. The hater will refuse to acknowledge any aspect of the hatee that does not further the hater's agenda. The hater will "hate on" elements of the work and/or person that are unimportant/irrelevant, blowing them 'out of proportion'. The hater is so enamored with hating the subject that one may question whether the hater secretly lusts after the hatee. I think there's often a sexualized subtext between arch-enemies, like batman and catwoman or the religious right and homosexuals.

Every one of these descriptions of "haters" fits Tao's most vocal detractors (jereme, PH Madore, etc.).

Why does Tao have so many haters?

1. His primary venue is the internet, the internet provides a 'mask' of 'anonymity', 'anonymity' provides a 'means' by which to be a 'complete jackass'.

2. He is very popular in certain circles eg HTMLGiant and popularity breeds jealousy/contempt. I think Tao's haters are disappointed that he has not yet succeeded in "selling out". They would have an opportunity to say "i told you so".

3. Tao is actually sort of an egotistical prick. Yes, but he does it in a very clever way, and, also, it seems like being self-obsessed enough to sift through your own thoughts for a living kind of demands a decent-sized ego. Writers with big egos are old news.

If i replaced every instance of "hater" in the above lines with "critic", "hatee" with "author", and "hate/hate on" with "criticize", i would arrive at the contemporary definition of a "critic". or at least, the most derogatory of several contemporary definitions. Frustrated, talentless, &c. Haters and critics also share the habit of "beefs"/"grudges".

The only noble act that can bring a critic above a hater is "rational insight". This term suggests the hope that the critic's reasoned opinion can enable the reader to appreciate the work in a way they might've missed. Mostly, i am trying to justify this essay.

8. bottomless fucking pit

just how incestuous is the internet?

prepare for a wall of text.

Selected authors that Tao Lin has published through his press, Muumuu house: Megan Boyle, Brandon Scott Gorrell, Ellen Kennedy, Audun Mortensen, Noah Cicero, Zachary German.

Ellen kennedy runs "ass hi books" with Tao Lin; Megan Boyle was published with Kendra Grant Malone, Lily Hoang, David Fishkind, and Roxane Gay in Pear Noir! 3. Lily and Roxane are both frequent contributors to HTMLGiant. David Fishkind's article was cited earlier. Kendra Grant Malone used to put her boobs on HTMLGiant and she's cowritten a chapbook with Tao; Audun Mortensen, according to norwegian wikipedia and google translate, writes for "existentially confused hipsters, depressed sex researchers, teenagers, freelance journalists, students and lonely life happy parents." This is obvs. Tao's audience; Noah Cicero was a coeditor of 3:AM magazine. Tao Lin is an occasional columnist for 3:AM. Zachary German has also written in 3:AM; Brandon Scott Gorell reviews reviews of Tao Lin on HTMLGiant.


these are all just "once removed" connections. If i went further and more in depth i would got lost in an enormous web of small presses and literary journals and blogs and basically the entire internet. There is something in here about the "social network" and "web 2.0". I think this is really nothing new. Editorship is often a means of "curation" or cultivation / promotion of a certain aesthetic sensibility. Groups of writers hang out together and trade ideas. Literary Journals. MFA programs. Symposia. Coffeeshops. Blogs. Etc. Etc. Etc. Forever.

9. In Conclusion

It is absolutely necessary to read this blog post in order to properly appreciate Tao Lin. Or! All of these points are so obvious and/or shallow that it's clear this entire exercise was just a means to an end.

If you've forgotten what we talked about, here's a brief summary: Hipsters, Tao Lin, 'Detached', 'literature', internet-persona-as-character, frederick bartheleme, incest, twitter (j/k!), depression, wikipedia, haters, book tour, $250, 'cred'.

And here's a quote from Gordon Lish that I got off wikipedia:

"Never be sincere — sincerity is the death of writing"

The End

ps - i now realize that there is no way i could approach 22000 words in the time i have left, so please ignore all conjecture about "winning".


1. This entire essay or entry or piece of writing is written with one hand.*

*- one hand and a left thumb, actually. I was riding my bicycle in Chicago and an SUV opened its door and I hit the door and I fell on the ground and broke my left hand. my left hand is in a splint but i can still use my thumb.

2. Mike Young, Brandon Scott Gorrell, Chelsea Martin, Daniel Bailey, later, Tao Lin

3. Tao Lin let me in on Frederick Barthelme. I've read Second Marriage, The Brothers, and Waveland. It's hard for me to remember which scenes are in which book, as Frederick Barthelme basically repeats the same story in each novel. i think second marriage was my favorite. F. Barthelme is a minimalist and a detached writer and sort of boring, but he has a brutal/perfect sense of humor. i feel like understanding Frederick Barthelme's sense of humor is really important in understanding Tao's writing/internet presence. i won't provide an excerpt but i will say that you should find one of his novels and read it and if you don't laugh a little, then you should just give up on Tao Lin and/or life, right there and then.

4. Clearly, as a reader and erstwhile commenter I am implicitly encouraged to go with "Tao" for the remainder. maybe you, the reader, one of whom will, hopefully, be the literal "Tao Lin", can realize the significance i have ascribed to first/full name references throughout. Also note significance of italics w/r/t "Richard Yates" and other phrases. This idea is further addressed in footnote 8.

5. “My experience” with Tao Lin consists of having read Shoplifting From American Apparel, shoplifting from American Apparel before and after reading the book, having read Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, having undergone two courses of cognitive behavioral therapy, having read Bed, one personal email from Tao Lin (two of the email's three sentences read, “Thank you for the nice, encouraging, supportive email. I felt happy reading it.”), having read HTMLGiant a lot, having read Tao and Kendra Grant Malone's chapbook Conor Oberst Sex, having heard that Eeeee Eee Eeee is a good book from my friend Molly, having heard some of my other friends say that Tao Lin was 'not that great of a writer', having been told by my friend Michelle that she got “this crazy book from [her] girlfriend as a birthday present – I think it was called Shoplifting From American Apparel or something” and having been subsequently told that she hadn't actually read it, occasionally reading, having seen Tao at a relatively empty book reading in Berkeley where a crazy lady came in mid-story and started talking about The Simpsons or something, subsequently meeting Tao for about fifteen seconds during which he wore a 'slightly baffled but amused' facial expression and signed/drew a hamster on a copy of Bed that I had just purchased, writing this essay, and Tao's facebook updates.

6. very unscientific. went through heheheheheheheeheheheehehe archives, did word count on every post that didn't include a large quotation from another author (published work/interview), excluded 'whale' poem (24000+ words), included 3+ long-form tao/noah cicero gchat conversations. (Tao makes a point of stating that Richard Yates is “55,500+ words.” Word count is relevant somehow, to his work, to the idea of 'legitimacy', to the idea of “flash fiction” which is a medium in which Tao and others frequently write, and to this essay.) The first of which posts is, incidentally, titled “the easter parade by richard yates”. I am pretty sure that this post is an argument for writing about things that are 'true to life' in order to “feel connected to another human being”. It also argues, in deference to what writing 'should' be about, “it is 'impossible' for anyone to logically 'should' anything unless contexts, perspectives, and goals have been defined”.

7. In which I expand on Tao's use of apostrophes and quotation marks. Actually, i'll let Tao do the work: “for example the word 'piece' has many different literal meanings depending on context, and even within context, and would 'activate' many different things in the reader's brain, and i would want to put it within quotation marks so, in part, that the reader can sort of 'bypass' those many meanings and know that i know i'm using a word with many different meanings, and am doing it sort of purposefully, thinking that it is funny or something” (facebook comment on someone else's comment on Tao's post).

8. Again, first names. The intention here is to frame the narrative as that of an insider without having to establish the authority by which I do so.

9. the way i feel is that his music is, at the very least, pretty good.

10. Here
is a comment from a Brooklyn Vegan (hipster music blog) article about WAVVES, which i found by googling "WAAVES sucks". The “you” of "you're" in this comment refers to the other commenters and the author, all of whom are presumably hipsters.

"I find it disconcerting that Wavves is receiving so much positive press and free promotion from the prominent "indie" blog-sphere. I typed in "Wavves suck" in google and found my way to this pretentious whore of a site. I think the blog-sphere has conspired to conduct an experiment to see just how addicted to their hype and recommendations their readers really are. Here it is: promote a fucking awful band, a late-comer to the lo-fi bandwagon that everyone seems to be jumping on, and a fucking abysmal addition at that, and see just how far people will run with it. The results are in: you're all mindless, soulless douche bags with no real sense of identity or personal taste . . . congratulations.

Posted by Anonymous | April 29, 2009 9:24 PM "

10. I couldn't find a citation for the conjectured Tao Lin + anti-hipster screed, but trust me in that I feel like i've read it somewhere. I'm totally mostly positive on this.

11. For evidence of this, see Vice Magazine, the 'hipster bible', which was founded by three ex-heroin-addicted-canadian-punks, two of whom continue to post hipster-oriented articles and fashion criticism on

12. There is a joke in here about David Foster Wallace. (spoiler alert!) (too soon?)


i have done rough, very inaccurate statistical analysis (all figures are to be doubted) and all sentences that directly/indirectly refer to either "Richard Yates" or Tao Lin or Tao Lin's Richard Yates contest consist of approx. 4728 words (including all mentions of WAVVES, which clearly serve as allegory re: Tao), and all sentences that refer directly/indirectly to the act of writing this essay consist of approx. 864 words, and all oblique sentences that are nonetheless necessary for the rhetorical structure of this essay and as such could perhaps fall in either category consist of approx. 758 words. I made a pie chart. I would say that this paragraph refers more directly to the production of the essay itself.

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