Tag Archives: tao lin

Misc. Ratings


‘Bird Box’,  by Josh Malerman — 4

‘Asylum’, by Madeline Roux — 3.5

‘The Martian’, by Andy Weir — 5 !!!

‘Friendship’, by Emily Gould — 3.5

‘Gun Machine’, by Warren Ellis — 4

‘Virtual Light’, by William Gibson (reread) — 5

‘Pattern Recognition’, by William Gibson (reread) — 5

‘Ready Player One’, by Ernest Cline — 4.5


True Detective (season 1) — 5 !!!

Masters of Sex (season 2) — 4


House of Wax — 3

Mama — 3.5

Not much to note; have been getting some good reading in. Cannot overstate how good ‘The Martian’ is, better than all the hype had even lead me to believe it would be. So incredibly smart, funny, and well paced. Ready Player One was as well, a book I wish I had gotten around to reading sooner.  Warren Ellis’ latest was everything I hoped for — the man simply doesn’t know how to put bad writing out into the world. He’s just so damn funny, in the blackest way possible, and simply knows how to write a good story. I was building my altar to him after ‘Transmetropolitan’ back when I was 17, and he’s never once disappointed me since.  There’s something incredibly earnest about how he approaches writing and his readers, he’s simply harsh enough on himself that he’ll never let a piece of shit out and tell you it’s worth your time. If he puts his name on it, you’re going to get him at his best.

Reread a bit of Gibson as sort of an old ritual, as he has his latest coming out later this month. I don’t really mark my calendar for any writer except Murakami and Gibson. Everyone is I love is insanely great, but those two are floating in their own universe, and  getting new novels from both of them this year feels like winning the lottery to me. Was thinking of rereading the entire ‘Blue Ant’ trilogy, but I’d really like to clear off some other pressing to-reads, as after finishing Gibson’s new ‘The Peripheral’ I plan to very seriously set aside most if not all of my reading to focus on writing again. I’ve had a couple ideas really eating away at my skull the last few years. Not sure which I’m really feeling right now, but I’m starting to lean a bit, having begun spending my time (via catching up on Ellis’ newest comics work) with comics again. We’ll see.

Stopped very early in the ‘Under 40’ alt-lit anthology just because…I don’t know. I feel the ‘alt lit’ ‘thing’ here and there, it never seems to quite sustain for long. Then I caught the slightest whiffs of all the mega cluster-fuckery going around Tao Lin ant HTML giant and everything and I just didn’t feel like it. There’s great writing in this anthology and I plan to come back to it down the road, it’s just not ringing my bells right now.

I’m working through Yerra Sugarman’s ‘The Bag of Broken Glass’, but I only read it in the late hours when I feel most focused, and it’s easily the most emotionally charged poetry I’ve read in a very, very long time, maybe ever. It’s a truly heartbreaking collection and I just can’t read it quickly, so it’ll take a bit.

I don’t know what to say about True Detective (season 1). Like Breaking Bad, I was sure it was good and had heard enough about it from people whose taste I trust that I knew it’d be good, but I had no idea it’d be the truly dark and strange and perfect beast that it is. Whatever big awards it pulls in (especially MM) it absolutely deserves without reservation. It took me to places I hadn’t felt since maybe Twin Peaks. I think it may have shot it’s own load though, I don’t know if any further seasons will ever match the voodoo that season 1 did, but I’m happy to be proven wrong. Easily, easily the best writing / acting / direction of any TV show since Breaking Bad, hands down, no contest.

BookRiot Asks: Who Are Your Favorite Writers of Color?



The ever noble folks over at BookRiot have written up a great post about how little diversity exists in the New York Times Bestseller List. Just how little diversity are we talking? Well, as they point out, only 3 authors out of the 124 to make the Top 10 in 2012 were people of color, and none were African American. In response to this BookRiot has asked readers to submit their 3 favorite authors of color, with the results being tallied by January 12th. This should offer many who want to broaden their reading a bit some fine suggestions.

For what it’s worth, my submitted authors, in no particular order:

1) Percival Everett

2) Haruki Murakami

3) Tao Lin


Misc. Reviews

Scarface — 5

Full Metal Jacket — 5

A Few Good Men — 3

The Wire (Season 1) — 4

The Wire (Season 2) — 4

The Wire (Season 3) — 5

Blue Jasmine — 5

5 Centimeters Per Second — 5

Google Talks: Salman Rushdie — 3

Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2013: David Simon, ‘Some People Are More Equal Than Others’ — 5

FODI 2013: Lawrence Krauss & Peter Rollins, ‘New Atheism vs. New Religion’ — 4

FODI 2013: Panel, ‘Death Gone Wrong’ — 3

‘this emotion was a little e-book’, Tao Lin — 4

Some more catching up on some movie classics I had somehow managed to miss until now. I definitely get what the big deal is about Scarface.

The Wire is a series I’ve been hearing about for years but hadn’t gotten around to yet, which is particularly shameful considering how much I’ve followed and admired creator David Simon’s various writings and public talks. The show really does live up to the hype, and is without a doubt some of the best criticism of the continued War on Drugs, for which the label ‘failed’ is an understatement of abysmal proportions. The characters and writing are brilliant, as is the overall pace and production. I actually surrendered all forms of self control and dignity a few days ago and marathoned the entirety of season 3 in a single day; it really is that good, the epitome of ‘just one more’ addiction. David Simon’s background as a journalist comes through very strong, and is the mechanism driving all the gritty and realistic minutiae that make the show truly singular.

Blue Jasmine was absolutely fantastic, the best Woody Allen in a long while and by far his best cast that I can remember. Cate Blanchett rightfully gets the lion’s share of praise for a perfectly affected portrayal of a genuine nervous breakdown of life-crumbling proportions. Baldwin and Louis CK are very enjoyable and the presence of Sally Hawkins (who I fell completely in love with in Happy-Go-Lucky) pushes the entire film over the top for me in the best ways possible.

5 Centimeters Per Second is easily the best animated film I’ve seen in years, visually pristine and aesthetically wealthy in all the ways needed to carry through to make what would in most hands a bland and cliche trio of vignettes.

I’d never quite say Salman Rushdie is disappointing as a speaker or reader, but he really does just..lose something, when off the page. The writing of his I know (not enough) is the real deal, he studies everything with a writer’s mind and imagination that is childlike yet with the matured patina of someone who has been the target of and answer to some of the most visceral anger and violence on offer in the modern world. His talk at Google about his memoir (that I loved) was all right but nothing terribly interesting to anyone who has read the book or even been enough a follower of his life to want to.

Been slowly working through all of the YouTube recordings of this past year’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas, which is always worth anyone’s time and always offers a genuinely complex range of topics. David Simon’s dark and only slightly hopeful critique of the lack of any social contract at all between America’s capitalistic balloonings of wealth and its people as a whole (i.e., the 99% vs. 1% dynamic) is thorough and emotional and uncomfortable, and I’m afraid that he’s almost certainly right in saying that, on the whole, it’s all going to get much worse before it gets better, and the turning point will be some kind of very real revolt, something along the lines of the Arab Spring meets Occupy Wall Street.

The ‘New Atheism vs. New Religion’ debate/discussion was all right but a bit flat. Lawrence Krauss is a fine speaker and getting better all the time, and represented himself well and did right by, I think, most anyone who could be called part of the ‘movement’. I had never seen Peter Rollins speak before and I get why he’s so popular — young, very charismatic, with a perfect sense for cadence and performance. Sadly, while markedly more enjoyable to listen to than Deepak Chopra, his pseudo-intellectual ramblings are equally hollow. Like Chopra he’s borrowed just enough jargon to weave together some admirable rhetorical stunt-pilotry that goes precisely nowhere — there’s just no there, there. His severely watered-down take on theology makes it so palatable even secularists might find it interesting, but it’s like popcorn, mostly air and quickly unsatisfying past his verbal theatrics.

Top 5 Books of 2013


I’m a couple of days late to the requisite end-of-year book list, but I read some true knockouts and really wanted to share them. Here in no particular order are my top 5 books I read this past year:


1. ‘Taipei‘, by Tao Lin

2. ‘Gross Ardor‘, by Bill Rasmovicz

3. ‘Invisible Cities‘, by Italo Calvino

4. ‘Little Brother‘, by Cory Doctorow

5. ‘i will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together‘, by Mira Gonzalez


Review: “i will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together’, by Mira Gonzalez

I will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful togetherI will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together by Mira Gonzalez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I liked this book quite a lot; it’s spare and direct, but with associative leaps that explode, but quietly and in sun-faded colors. The writing bears many of the hallmarks of the ‘style’ usually associated with Tao Lin, but it does so in a way that felt earnest (one nickname among many for this style seems to be the ‘new sincerity’ movement, which seems bizarre). Emotionally charged but at a remove–the real resonance for me comes from all its strangeness and surprises, the odd and lonely scenes in each poem. The book engages with the paradox of loneliness and closeness better than most that try, as the speaker is constantly hyper self-aware not only in index-like cataloging of emotions and thoughts but even more so with physicality, with frequent lines about desiring to not just engage a physical body with her own but to occupy the exact same space, down to the empty space between each other’s atoms.

It’s an incredibly smart book, making deft and highly insightful gestures that are subtle and easily misunderstood to be simplistic or banal. There’s also a lot of nostalgia and retracing, time becoming an odd thing as past and present seem (like the speaker’s body) to occupy / want to occupy impossible spaces. With all this a constant self-reminder that emotional singularity is a lie, that everything felt has been felt before and almost nothing we ever experience is unique outside of our subjective existence. This tightens the emphasis on self, brings added scrutiny to interactions with others, how they perceive us, and how we act with that magnified gaze constantly feeding back.

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Review: ‘Taipei’, by Tao Lin

TaipeiTaipei by Tao Lin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A blurb by Blake Butler on the back of this book reads, “A work of vision so relentless it forces most any reader to respond.” I think I read this blurb, for no particular reason, three or four times while reading this book and every time thought it said ‘restless’ instead of ‘relentless’, which I liked a lot because that’s exactly the feeling I had reading this book, and it feels accurate RE: how I’ve felt reading Tao Lin’s work in the past. There’s a staccato, jutting momentum that happens in this book, with an alternating rhythm of things happening / dialogue and the main character’s constant emotional and physical self-awareness and hyper self-analysis. This starting / stopping feeling as the ‘time’ inside the book repeatedly pauses creates this restless feeling for me, an effect that I felt causes a constant level of subtle anxiety, which isn’t a criticism but an appreciation for writing that can both create such an effect and create an effect so appropriate to what’s going on in the book.

This anxiety and kind of hyper-present in the moment framework was haunting to me, in that I felt like it constantly changes how my internal thought processes and inner monologue functioned for abstract lengths of time during / after reading this book for a while. I found myself stopping to think about what and why I was feeling, even during relatively trivial moments that I’d otherwise not have paid so much attention to, as if the main character was now in my head, narrating back to me as I went through my day, creating a bizarre but I think enjoyable kind of meta fan-fiction effect. Or something.

Something I thought repeatedly while reading this book was that Tao Lin is perhaps a master of the most genuine brand of ‘stream-of-consciousness’ writing ever done, that it was earnest and unadorned. I wondered if anyone who thought they liked books of that style would ever read this or one of his other books and decide maybe they didn’t like it so much without the conventions of other works, which to me would seem more obviously creative than before, which is to say possibly less honest, which is not a criticism–like the difference between a realist, dramatic movie constructed to compel certain emotions versus a documentary that insists on all the banal details.

I also thought a lot about how the relatively autobiographical nature mixed with the heavy drug use insists on such a clear lineage to writers like Hunter S. Thompson and others, and how both books like Taipei and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas are both used in discussions about specific generations / time periods. It felt interesting how the drug use in Taipei isn’t ‘exciting’ or ‘glamorous’ so much as just factual, just another detail to note along the way; it creates an interesting balance where there’s no specific weight to the fact that the characters are taking lots of drugs all the time, it’s not the focus of the book necessarily, and the characters don’t act like crazed addicts.

I felt a great deal of empathy throughout the book for the feeling of a kind of meandering boredom, with emotional activity spikes toward both elation and lonely sadness, triggered at times by nothing or trivial causes; this empathy made the book fully enjoyable to me. I feel like I worry with each new book from Tao Lin I’m going to get bored and not want to read him anymore, as his style doesn’t change from book to book, but I keep enjoying them quite a bit. I still feel like Tao Lin’s poetry is more enjoyable, though, than his prose, which is just because I loved his earlier books so much, and I’d like to see him return to poetry again as well.

I think also this book has ‘something to offer’ even to those who don’t particularly enjoy reading it, which is probably the best any book can offer to do. It’s more than worth your money.

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Misc. Reviews

Lost in Translation — 5 

Man Push Cart — 5

The Red Balloon — 5

Louie (seasons 1-3) — 5

Breaking Bad (seasons 1-4) — 50 million

Insidious 2 — 3

Dexter finale — negative 17

Being John Malkovich — 5

Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell — 4


Had a good run lately, been stockpiling stuff I figured would be good and it’s all held up. Expected the Dexter finale to be horse shit and it was. Haven’t caught all the way up on Breaking Bad yet, and desperately trying to before major spoilers inevitably fly across one social media or another. Louis CK and Bill Murray are perfect human beings and desperately need to make a movie together. Every time George Orwell’s biographical self in ‘Down and Out’ had ‘tea and two slices’ I had to stop and go eat toast. Started von Trier’s ‘Melancholia’ but haven’t been able to finish it yet, I think it’s boring. Same with Jonathan Lethem’s ‘Dissident Gardens’ but I think it’ll get a lot better; eventually Lethem’s perfect weirdness will get rolling and that’s when he knocks things out of the park. Getting back to Tao Lin’s ‘Taipei’ which is singular and great.


In his tiredness…

In his tiredness and inattention these intuitions manifested in Paul as an uncomplicated bleakness–that he was in the center of something bad, whose confines were expanding, as he remained in the same place. Faintly he recognized in this a kind of humor, but mostly he was aware of the rain, continuous and everywhere as an incognizable information, so he crossed the magnified street, gleaming and blacker from wetness, to return to the party.

from ‘Taipei’ by Tao Lin

Review: ‘Richard Yates’, by Tao Lin

Richard YatesRichard Yates by Tao Lin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. I can say without sarcasm or irony or shame it assuaged me existentially. I feel like I admire a certain kind of commitment / effort required to write and read a book like this, and this has nothing to do with ‘tedium’ unless you’re not paying attention, but that’s okay, most people don’t, and it has nothing to do with being a good or bad person or a smart or dumb person (okay, sometimes), it’s just how people are. Art is hard, interacting with art is hard, finding art that is ready to interact with you as an individual is perhaps the hardest part.

I really enjoyed the relationship dynamic at the center of the book. I think it’s confusing and perhaps funny how many people seem to dislike this book because the HJO character doesn’t seem to often be a great person to be in a relationship with, as if the book isn’t fictional, and even to whatever degree it might not be, how does that reflect on the book? That itself is an interesting thing to think about, so I guess now I’m glad some people think that way, even if I think those people are stupid (though I don’t, but still do, which is why I’m confused).

What I enjoyed most about the relationship in the book is the confusion the HJO character feels when the DF character expresses cognitive dissonance daily in how she proceeds with her life, such as wanting to lose weight and be healthy while she is bulimic. The HJO character frequently gets upset and seems genuinely confused by this, as to why someone would say they want something or to act a certain way while never acting that way or doing what they need to be doing to enact certain outcomes in their life. This is something I personally connect with and find myself often doing. My personal feeling is along the lines of ‘It often gets more complicated than that’ but that just might be an excuse. I’m really intrigued that the HJO character seems to never ‘suffer’ from this; I’m curious if he really doesn’t or the book is written in such a way that it only seems that he doesn’t. My being intrigued by this is sort of stupid, though, as I’m interested in how he engages in the world this way if he really does, but if he really does it’s not the result of any disciplined worldview (like I wish it were, so I could adopt it) but simply how he ‘is’. This makes me wonder if this is still a worldview and daily practice that can be achieved by discipline and repetition, or if you have to be wired that way. This is the struggle that drives the relationship via conflict and resolution, and with it the novel. I’m interested in the disproportionate ratio of intense scrutiny on the behavior of the DF character, it shows some kind of abstract bias in the narrating entity. Again I’m glad for the extreme show/tell ratio–the fact that so little in the writer/reader relationship is dictated in this way creates a true sense of accessibility.

I’m curious about people who have problems with the style of the book, because it seems authentically stream-of-consciousness to me in a way (or rather stream-of-existence?), it feels like a good approximation of how life proceeds, so if people don’t enjoy the style of the book how do they go about their lives? It also seems that this book abides by the cliche rule of fiction to show and not to tell (just because it is cliche does not mean I think it’s wrong), this book shows everything and tells essentially nothing. Like anything else, especially in art, there’s as much meaning and enjoyment as is generated by your interaction with the book.

I mean, is it true that a novel I’ve never read has literally zero meaning to me because I’ve never read it? If you read this book it has meaning to you, I think ‘meaning’ or ‘making sense’ etc. are lazy, ambiguous, useless terms. I think talking in detail about the degree and type of meaning you do or do not find in a book or piece of art is way more interesting.

I don’t know why I’ve become so interested by the people who say things about this book when they didn’t like it. I just looked at the Goodreads profile of one of them and one of her interests is ‘cheese’, so I thought ‘Cheese beast. That is apropos, but only to me in this instance for maybe 15 seconds.’ This doesn’t make her a bad person, though.

I’m glad to have read this book and glad Melville House is putting this out. I thought that it could have easily been that this book might never have existed and genuinely felt intensely worried/sad/something, but that’s a strange way to think about anything.

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A page of poetry that I read today that seemed like someone had mockingly transcribed my thoughts

from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, by Tao Lin:

“as a teenager i experienced existential despair as an unsexy sensation
of repressed orgasm in the chest; today i experience existential despair
as a distinct sensation of wanting to lecture you
on how i am better than you, without crushing your hopes and dreams
if this is about to become a social situation i’ll be right back
my unit of communication is the 200-page novel
always remember that i am better than you, according to me
small feelings of permanence later get wrapped and sold on amazon”