Monday, March 22, 2010

i have thoughts and feelings about tao lin

And those thoughts and feelings are mixed.

Tao Lin is known as much for his eccentricities as he is for his writing, maybe more. He notoriously financed the writing of his forthcoming novel "Richard Yates" (Melville House, 2010) by selling $12,000 worth of shares to investors. Last year, he may or may not (see the comments) have sold his MySpace page to an investment banker for $8,100 on eBay.

I don't remember when I first ran across Lin's writing, but my personal experience with his perhaps more singular personality began last fall, when I ordered a complete set of his art prints (images above) in October during a special Halloween sale.

It took more than a month and a half for the prints to arrive, and when they finally came Lin had written, on a small, square piece of cardboard included in the package:

"I'm sorry for the very massive delay. To compensate I've included some 'bonus' items. I hope you find this satisfactory overall. Thank you for your order."

The "bonus" items included a blank, pocket-sized Moleskine notebook, two narrow bumper stickers that read "fuck america" and five random photographs: four taken of other pieces of Tao Lin artwork and one of a random white poodle standing on a grassy beach. Also included was a copy of Brandon Scott Gorrell's poetry collection, "during my nervous breakdown i want to have a biographer present," published by Lin's small press, Muumuu House, in 2009.

An incredibly detailed account of the book's publication can be found here, in which Lin writes:

"I feel it may take ~1 to ~5+ years to sell ~1400 copies. I feel strongly that Brandon's book will become 'a kind of classic' (as I feel with Ellen's book), that it will be referred to by people in the future and remain 'known' for 10+ years or something, and that Brandon's second poetry book, blog, first novel, etc. will continue to generate interest in Brandon as he remains alive, and doing things, in the world; and so I felt secure, and other things, printing 2500 copies. I anticipate 2nd, 3rd, etc., printings of any book published by Muumuu House."

I read Gorrell's book rather quickly, and can see why Lin likes it, as it's basically like Tao Lin Lite. The book is rife with experiences of being an adolescent in the digital age: The only major player aside from extreme bouts of self-consciousness is the Internet. It's a book that -- and I mean no creative disrespect to Gorrell when I write this -- feels like it was written by someone inspired by and emulating Lin's poetry.

That in and of itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, though it is, I think, why I've started becoming disillusioned with Lin's poetry. While I don't remember how I first came across Lin's work, I do know it was the originality of his poetry that first drew me in. I remember posting the link to "a poem written by a bear" on my Facebook page with a caption that read something like, "Sometimes you discover certain writers who make you feel bad for not being a genious. This is one of them."

And of course, there's the clever-upon-first-reading "i went fishing with my family when i was five," which I've heard he reads in its entirety at open mic nights (follow the link and you'll see why that's notable, if not necessarily necessary).

I still enjoy Lin's poetry to an extent -- this entire post began as a way to say that since the end of February Lin has had 12 poems up at The Lifted Brow, and for the most part I enjoy them immensely -- but the more I read work in the vein of he and Gorrell the more it feels unnaturally forced.

I appreciate the formation of what to me seems like a new school of poetic expression, fueled by those up-and-coming poets who may have grown up with current technological innovations as the norm, but I can only read so much poetry that seems like such a hybrid of high school vanity poetry ("i think," "i feel," etc.) and text and instant messaging.

That said, Lin has a knack for narrative poetry, which despite its possible flaws keeps me coming back for more. And with titles like "i feel weird, like my favorite book is a novelisation of 'metroid'" I'm afraid it's impossible for me not to keep reading, even when the opening line is "i feel like giving my penis papercuts."

No comments: