Taipei: A Novel About Nothing For Trust Fund Hipsters

Taipei may be Tao Lin’s most mature work, but that isn’t saying much considering that the thirty year old author has made a literary career out of immaturity. And yet, Lin’s third novel and seventh book has been critically acclaimed more than it has been criticized. Jonathan Kyle Sturgeon of The American Reader even makes the grandiose claim that “Taipei is beautifully cut, to be sure, like a diamond.” Critics from a wide range of pulpits have seemed to come to the conclusion that Lin’s parenthetical comma-filled and dash-riddled run-on sentence style is not only unique, but somehow representational of the millennial generation’s collective thought process.

However, claiming that Taipei best reflects the perspective of an American growing up in the digital age assumes that a majority of the newest generation are try-hard apathetic artists with comfy allowances from mom and dad. This is especially frustrating considering that many young Americans are primarily concerned with financial hardship, (unlike Lin’s proxy, Paul, who does not have to consider monetary troubles). Even critics with negative responses to Taipei (such as Ian Sansom of The Guardian and Annalisa Quinn of NPR) miss the point that “Generation Y” does not mainly consist of pseudo-intellectual, faux existentialist, bourgeois pill-poppers, but rather that this specific audience merely has a significant internet-presence.

Clancy Martin’s overtly positive review of Taipei in the New York Times Book Review refers to the protagonist’s interminable travel throughout the novel as “…Paul’s way of being, much more than his pill-popping (which is also nonstop, but doesn’t seem to have much influence on his way of thinking).” After reading Martin’s review, one wonders whether he had actually read the book at all, because the entire plot of Taipei revolves around Paul experimenting with drugs in order to experience life differently (and consequently perceive, or think differently), relieve himself of boredom, and in order to act “normal” when doing readings for his book tour across the country.

It’s understandable that reviewers get excited about a novel that celebrates alternative consumerism with avant-garde, sometimes even skillful prose-poetry. However, the author’s beautiful but clumsy writing does not mean that at Taipei’s conclusion Paul has believably grown from a self-absorbed womanizer into a human being capable of feeling compassion. Regardless of whatever revelation the main character has, the final passage does little to satisfy the reader, who has endured 248 pages of insignificance in order to find out that Paul is “grateful to be alive”. What is clear is that the protagonist has journeyed from a state of inexplicable dreariness, (signified by the opening words of the novel: “It began raining a little from a hazy, cloudless-seeming sky…”) to a state of semi-awareness, (brought on by a psychedelic trip nonetheless) which still falls short of compassion for other human beings.

The fact that critics are claiming Lin’s style to be delineating of his generation is absurd in that it overlooks the novel’s solipsism (in spite of its third-person narration). Yet this narration is a ruse, as Tao Lin, the internet-obsessed and ironic self-publicizing NYU alumni, has openly admitted to merely transcribing “25,000 pages of memory” into roughly 250 pages of a thinly-veiled diary posing as fiction. Through this, Lin is able to convey to the reader his not-so-profound message that other people’s emotions matter, if only in regards to how he, himself, feels.

gawker
Lin has once again been able to change his diary from first to third person and get it published as a “novel”.

This Flame Consumes Water

Yes, I am one who wastes far too many

of my sparse thoughts on the daily mundane,

so who am I to offer remedy

for beauty sprouting seemingly from plain

brown eyes? I watch as you try to get high

off residue, and you, my love, are far

from pathetic. Our flame is dignified

while licking cannabis in lieu of water.

Your tepid tongue intertwines with mine and

the ashes of my flesh combine with spit,

creating words I never thought I’d send

from my mind let alone my mouth and it

feels good, us. We felt good, we’re still good

at times, yet our mouths have been filled with blood.

Fucked Up

Etheridge Knight’s poem

Lord I’m gone I left myself I’ve packed up

and split and I with no way to make me

come back and nowhere the world is full

faded fallen black     coal dirt darkens

whiskey death dead dying and diving down to

the next bar taking myself away stealing

my own smiles and laughter and solitary

computer screen derived midnight sighs-

 

Fuck Cobain and music and cars

drifting in the street and buildings

and rats and dogs and cats and

all the animals that roam the city

fuck cohn-bendit and focault fuck chomsky

fuck assange and anonymous fuck technocracy

fuck alcohol and wet fuck pills fuck molly

fuck obama and boehner and paul fuck

the internet and the digital revolution

fuck the whole muthafuckin thing

all i want now is myself back

so reality can sing

The Loser: Part 1

Pops was a bartender here back in the 80′s. He was the father of four. Three of them drug addicts, the other being Arnie, my uncle, who is now The Loser’s lone bartender.
One day, a beer bottle broke over his head while he was working and a piece of glass cut him good. He would get around in spite of his eye.
Sometimes an unknowing family ventured into The Loser. They’d think it’s quaint or something, strutting into a dive bar with a kid “on break” from college. They’d ruin the very atmosphere they’re attracted towards.
So they sat next to me of course. Uncle Arnie ignored them. The suburban-brat-child tried ordering an “abortion.” The cheeky father laughed and asked for the same. Uncle Arnie turned around from his imaginary business.
Get the fuck out.
As the duo shuffled out the door yelping about how “no one on the internet” will ever see a good review of this place, I started getting an awful headache. That wanna-be edgy middle-aged father mentioned the internet in such an unfamiliar way, with the kind of tone that implied a successful wielding of power.
Uncle Arnie knew the antidote to my ailment. A pint of lager in a glass which has never been washed. A special glass saved just for me. The dirt minerals or the unknown whatever stained within did something to dull the pain.
It still wasn’t enough. I sat there, at the edge of my stool, waiting for nothing. It was noon, as I could hear those church bells chime their extra tolls only a block away.
My uncle and I would get along because we both don’t talk much. We never really needed to communicate with words.
I often lied to myself. The only one I never lied to was the only one I could trust. A stuffed animal in the form of a bear, under a broken floorboard beneath my unmade mattress back at home. I had to hide him from Arnie’s pill-head sister who gave birth to me.
I lit up a cigarette. I looked around inside The Loser and realized that life could be worse. I could picture him with his crooked, soft brown eyes, his pudgy belly, and his stubby arms. Even though my relationship with him was a secret, it wasn’t because I was ashamed. I kept him secret in order to protect him from this grimy world. And he protected me from myself.
As I took my final drag, Arnie gave me a foreboding look. I thought he was angry about me smoking in the bar. Sometimes he would get upset about it and blame it on the owner noticing the smell. I knew he wasn’t mad because it was against the rules, but because he was worried about my habits. One time when he was really drunk, he told me that drinking had a purpose, but that tobacco was a pointless, overly addictive drug. I knew it was really the smoke I exhaled that was bothering him. The sight of smoke around a relative reminded him of the 80′s, when he witnessed his brothers succumb to the crack epidemic.
He said nothing that time about me smoking a cigarette. I looked at him as he stood there silently. As soon as I opened my mouth he spoke.
Your mom called.
He didn’t have to say anything else. Without a word, I left cash on the dusty bar and walked out the door.

Another Nor’easter

Tired of writing and thinking

about nothingness.

So writing instead on nothing.

Sadness is looking back.

In that time,

emptiness. Reality not represented

because of abstract lenses.

Stuck, the same thing every day.

Thoreau and Emerson- beyond understanding,

transcendentalism is not for the hungry.

The dog is getting old, he is loved.

Mother will never stop worrying.

In a costume against better judgment.

Not having much longer, never having much longer.

Not having much worth saying.

All too often everything is unbearable.

And that is almost a lie, since everything continues.

Not apt for this. Circle, self-referring solo, meditating

on another illusion

how this has gone on for too long.

No more poetry: rotten fruit for worthless humans.

Waiting to get it all over with. Tired of writing about the self,

it is due to a lack of creativity.

Once more unto the blackness friends, dull acquaintances.

Universal pain in the ribs, glorious unglory.

Uneverything and wiseness down the drain. Forget these lacerations

memorize each breath. All drivel, fucking worthless words.

Cyclical redundancy inhabiting each thought.

Cramping limbs, giving comfort when there is nothing else.

Only hallucinating the intangible

lights, shadows, redness. Not like there are a bunch of crab apparitions

appearing randomly. Lacan would not alleviate any of it.

Ringing inscribed in impermanent stone.

Stinging words in deep ironically,

permanent things on a temporary body. Death does not do us part.

Nothing leaves this physical encasement. Iron wires wrapped around flesh.

Exposed to alienation, there is barely a shell left.

Every day seems like the last until it all gets boring.

Split between mediocrity and familiarity. Only a piece, purple,

royalty or almighty? I wrote that I was done with poetry on more than one occasion

attention grabbing advertisement specializing in arbitrariness.

Smells like bleach, I’d like to think someone got stabbed here last night.

Well, I don’t like it, I just thought of it, perhaps I sub-consciously like to think of such things.

I’d like to get stabbed one of these days.

I think of it often.