Writing Without Complaint About A Book

I’m afraid of technology and really love having pages while I read, but I decided that if I was ever going to buy an ebook, the only way to start was with something by Tao Lin. I read it, and then bought the book again in hard copy on impulse.

Tao Lin is somewhat controversial as a figure, and it does bother me sometimes that someone can write so truthfully about feelings of failure and lack of motivation while clearly being motivated enough to be a successful published author, which means he’s still more motivated and less of a failure than I am. He is, however, the person who writes most truthfully about my generation, about the lost and confused feelings of being a recent graduate in a world where no one wants to hire you but everyone expects you to be successful at pursuing your dreams that you may or may not actually have, about being trapped in a world on the internet that you don’t necessarily like but can’t escape from, about surviving in a world of transience and constant movement that doesn’t allow for stability yet sets an expectation of stability in everything that you pursue, about not ever really being happy or comfortable or even okay, but also about how that isn’t necessarily not okay.

Taipei helped me feel validated and less alone in my discomfort and depression, like this is something we all go through that doesn’t necessarily ever end, and like that’s fine. I don’t want to say it’s the most important modern novel, but I do think it’s potentially the most accurate novel ever written [probably because it’s heavily based on real life], and I think it should be required reading for young people at some point in school/life. I haven’t understood anything as well as Taipei, and nothing has understood me as well as this book has. Either I’m exceptionally fucked up, or our whole generation is somewhat like this; I don’t know. But if you’re anything like me or just care to understand me better: go read it.

Here is a trailer basically if you’d rather watch things than read things:

10 more highlights, in the form of quotes:

1. “Paul began…to feel a mocking, sitcom-like conviction that, for him, ‘too many years had passed’ since college – that without education’s season-backed, elaborately subdivided, continuous structure, traceable numerically backward almost to birth, connecting a life in that direction, he was becoming isolated and unexplainable”

2. “[He] discerned after a brief sensation of helplessness – like if he’d divided 900 by itself and wanted the calculator to answer 494/494 or 63/63 – that, in terms of leaving this social situation, he shouldn’t have been born.”

3. [After Barry tricked Paul into losing at chess] “[he] felt himself reassimilating Barry into the world as a kind of robot-like presence he would always need to be careful around and would never comprehend.”

4. “Paul carried his panini outside and ‘openly exchanged witty banter while feeling severely depressed,’ he thought while speaking to various acquaintances.”

5. “In line, behind two people, he thought that, from a certain point onward, he would only appear in public if he’d ingested sufficient drugs to not primarily be a source of anxiety, bleakness, awkwardness, etc. for himself and/or others.”

6. “Paul had returned to his default lifestyle, which varied, to some degree, but generally entailed (1) avoiding most social situations (2) not wanting to sleep most nights and not knowing why – he’d wanted since 2006 to title one of his books I Don’t Want to Sleep but I Don’t Know What I’m Waiting For – resulting usually in four to ten hours of looking at the internet, reading, masturbating, etc. until morning, when he would eat something and sleep until night.”

7. “On average,” said Paul through his hands. “Since the urge to kill myself isn’t so strong that I actually kill myself, the world is worth living in.”

8. “Paul said getting married was like getting a tattoo, in that he just wanted to pay money and receive a service, not make appointments and go places and talk to strangers and be asked to confirm his choice.”

9. “He wanted to hide by shrinking past zero, through the dot at the end of himself, to a negative size, into an otherworld, where he would find a place – in an enormous city, too large to know itself, or some slowly developing suburb – to be alone and carefully build a life in which he might be able to begin, at some point, to think about what to do about himself.”

10. “I think I am where you were twenty minutes ago, so you need to console me,” he said while thinking “that’s exactly what I would tell a projection to do if I were dead.”

2 responses to “Writing Without Complaint About A Book

  1. I’ve never heard of Tao Lin before, but based on your description and those ten quotes, he sounds like an author fueled, or once fueled, by large tanks of social anxiety and angst. If that is the case, I could probably easily relate to his fiction.

    • He definitely is; you should check him out and let me know what you think! I feel like people either love him or hate him, there’s not much middle ground, so I’m always really curious what will happen when I introduce his work to new readers 🙂

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