Posted by Jason Diamond

Melville House

208 Pages

Tuesday was the official release date of Tao Lin’s latest book, Richard Yates.  Judging by the fact that this is the our second post in two days that talks about Tao, I feel comfortable saying that it’s officially Tao Lin week in Vol. 1 land.

Since I started paying attention to his work, I’ve noticed there are several different schools of thought regarding Lin as a person and as a writer:

  • People who hate him.
  • People who want to be like him.
  • People who have never read him but want to judge him.
  • People who think he’s the greatest thing since (insert a philosophers name here).
  • People who think he’s Carles.
  • People who really want to overthink the shit out of him.

I feel like as somebody who simply likes his work that I’m of a minority.   I enjoy Tao’s work, and won’t go to any great lengths at defending him in an argument against anybody who is in any of the above categories.  But for sake of trying to understand what exactly “gets” people about Tao,  I’m willing to listen to any of the above thoughts on him, even though at this point, my mind is made up.

That all finally brings us to Richard Yates.  Like Lin’s other books, it’s easy to get through it in about 24 to 48 hours — which works out well, considering that this book deserves a second read.  There is a noticeable growth in Lin’s writing (things “in quotes” are down about 87%), and he does tread on some ground that some folks could find uncomfortable (statutory rape), but  (the fictional characters) Dakota Fanning and Haley Joel Osment do portray a couple of, eh, young folks, that are either totally fucked in the heads, or the last 2 sane people living in the world.  I’m sure if I knew psychology better that I could say something about how they’re both obviously unable to come to grips with the world they live in, and act out in an  antisocial manner on just about every page of the book.

I like that Lin can do this.  I like that his books–no matter how dry–always seem to remind me of people I knew growing up, and his characters, no matter how criminal some of their activities may be, always retain some sort of innocence.

In the past, I’ve heard comparisons of Lin to Bret Easton Ellis (specifically Less Than Zero), and in some ways, this latest output is the closest I’ve seen Lin get to that.   While Less Than Zero dealt with disaffected rich kids, Lin’s characters are always disaffected, eh, normal kids, and with Richard Yates, he gives us his added ammunition to believe we’re truly living in a blank generation, and he is one of the only people who notice it.

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  • I paid attention to Tao Lin because of his name kept popping up, and then he wrote a couple cool articles in The Stranger here in Seattle, and I read some cool poems. I was a fan of his, so I checked out Eeeeeeeeeee & Shoplifting, but his prose bored me. Couldn’t get thru ten pages. But, I wondered, was it me?

    Then I started reviewing books, and requested a copy of Richard Yates from Melville House, and determined to read the whole thing. Was I wrong? Had I not given Tao Lin’s prose a chance? It is, by far, the most boring book ever, at least that I have read from cover to cover. Repetitive, shallow, raises issues w/o exploration…and poorly and haphazardly punctuated, and this is not just in the Gmail chat, but in the prose. This is a bad book in every way.

    He is great, even genius, when it comes to promoting and having a finger on the culture, but he has a bad prose artist, and lowers the literary bar everywhere. The prose is way below the promotion. I reviewed the book at Canada’s Dooneys Cafe – Tao Lin: American Dork: http://www.dooneyscafe.com/archives/2315