Excerpt: Tao Lin's
Shoplifting from American Apparel
introduction by WILL HUBBARD
Of the many rumors I have heard about Tao Lin, I am most impressed by the idea that Tao Lin writes a great deal every day — at his apartment, at the NYU Bobst Library, at places that sell relatively inexpensive iced coffee. I admire diligence in writers because I know that writing all the time requires the quasi-mystical ability to make note of what happens inside and outside the mind whether or not it coheres or makes a story. Even the act of writing "We are fucked" over and over again — as Lin's narrator does quite often — belies its own melancholy by affirming both the writer's company and the continued ability to observe that gives him life.
Lin's characters tend always to lament that they are alone and hurting, but the sharing of self-pity allows them to heal at least as much as they decay. In Shoplifting From American Apparel, even the whims of Luis' "shit" internet connection cannot isolate these friends for long. Literature, for this writer, is talking: to the people that come closest to understanding you as a person, to the people who probably do understand you as a person. The result, for the reader, is a perverse voyeuristic pleasure muddled with self-pity for having been excluded from Lin's circle of communication.
from Shoplifting from American Apparel
by TAO LIN
“You seem strange,” said Luis on Gmail chat. “I’m pretty sure you have Asperger’s. People with Asperger’s and schizoid personality disorder usually make good friends.”
“Schizoid,” said Sam. “Luis. What are we.”
“Fucked,” said Luis. “Was that like a cheer. What are we! Fucked. Our shit can be studied by an anthropologist 1,000 years from now to know what we ate.”
“Indian food,” said Sam.
“They will say 'Sam had a vegan diet of good food and wine and Indian food. Luis ingested Waffle House.'”
“I want to change my novel to present tense,” said Sam. “Is there some Microsoft Word thing to do that.”
“I don’t think so. I think you have to do it manually.”
“Manually,” said Sam.
“By hand,” said Luis. “Get an interview on Suicide Girls, that should be your next step. Do you think in five years the national media will create a stupid term like ‘blogniks’ to describe us.”
“Yes,” said Sam. “Remember we had hope like 4 months ago.”
“Can you cite that day,” said Luis. “The day of hope.”
“I remember one night particularly,” said Sam. “Your book was at 30,000 sales rank. I was alone in the library. My fingers lay illuminated on the keyboard. Likewise my face was bathed in the soft blue light of Internet Explorer.”
Sam stared at what he typed with a neutral facial expression.
“I just peed outside and hurt my foot,” said Luis.
“You pee outside,” said Sam. “Is it because of laziness. Or variety. I got arrested today, when I was stealing. I am okay. I just need to go to court on 9/11 and get community service.”
“Just now,” said Luis. “For what.”
“Today around 4. A shirt. I was going to get a new shirt for my reading.”
“Are you serious,” said Luis. “9/11. Why didn’t you tell me.”
“I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking about it until you peed outside and I thought about variety.” Sam emailed Luis around eight hundred words he had typed earlier about the holding cell. “The Asian guy got his ass beat for no reason and lost $100 and spent the day in jail,” he said on Gmail chat.
“What did you do in there,” said Luis.
“I sat there,” said Sam.
“Were you scared. What did you do.”
“We sat there,” said Sam. “I felt the same sort of.”
“What did your brain do,” said Luis.
“I was trying not to laugh at the drunk guy. The Asian guy was like in Kafka. He didn’t steal anything and got his ass beat and will probably be deported to Canada.”
“Who beat his ass,” said Luis.
“Kmart. I think they chose him because he looks like he doesn’t care if he gets his ass beat for no reason. I think Kmart saw that in him.”
“Kmart beat his ass,” said Luis. “Are you worried. Have you told your parents.”
“I’m not telling them,” said Sam. “Unless they ask.”
Sam talked about his parents having moved to Taiwan.
“Your parents have returned to their native land to die?” said Luis. “Are they like living there now, like that is their life?”
“Yes,” said Sam. “I think.”
“Are you okay, my friend,” said Luis.
“I don’t know,” said Sam. “Are you.”
“I haven’t been arrested and my parents haven’t left the country I’m residing in. I don’t speak to my parents but I’m already over that. So it is different with you. You didn’t tell me that. I feel like petting your head.”
“My mom emails me,” said Sam. “I am okay.”
“Don’t steal shit for a while,” said Luis. “And try to make yourself happy in some way.”
“Okay,” said Sam. “I’ll buy a new emo CD.”
“Do you have a lawyer,” said Luis. “Do you have connections. When I went to court I told them I was a Hersado and the charges were dropped magically. My grandfather owns a grocery store.”
“I have no lawyer,” said Sam. “I might get a job.”
“You have good rankings on Amazon,” said Luis. “Soon you will be making money to write and be weird, and not have to steal.”
Sam said he was going to eat Chinese food.
“Go eat,” said Luis. “It is a beautiful night.”
Tao Lin's novella Shoplifting From American Apparel can be purchased here. Tao twitters here. You can visit his website here. Tao will be making public appearances in California from September 26th to October 3rd.
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