Arts & Culture
'Taipei' by Tao Lin: Brooklyn, Taiwan, Xanax, Twitter
Polarizing writer’s third novel probes the millennial fixation with technology and boredom
Published: August 7, 2013
Also, like Paul, Lin is of Taiwanese descent, speaks Mandarin, peppers his responses with “I don’t know” or “at least it’s something different or something” and spent his childhood in Apopka. (Paul mentions it in brief passing: “The above-water parts of him were waiting patiently, he thought while staring at the soil beneath the bushes a few feet beyond the hot tub and remembering disliking the presence of soil while in swimming pools as a child in Florida, for the laughter to end and something else to begin.” One can safely interpret that Lin’s impressions of Central Florida are – at best – dull.)
Unlike the hostile reception to most of his six previous published works (including his debut novel, irritatingly titled Eeeee Eee Eeee), Taipei has been overwhelmingly praised as a game-changer in its deadpan, flat, yet literary prose or enthusiastically defined as his most mature work. My request to interview Lin was politely declined by his publicist, to my dismay; my list of questions was long. Does criticism of your work affect your personality – or vice-versa? What’s your favorite drug (and are you on it now)? What are your thoughts on Walt Whitman, that other famed celebrator of self?
By the novel’s end, one starts to wonder whether Lin should simply rename all of his work “My Life” – or, as Shames puts it in a quote extracted from the book, “ ‘This is what the universe created, after whatever billion years.’ #alternativetaipeititles.” The book zigzags through Paul’s alienation in a way that most likely mimics Lin’s own background as a kid who was placed in a special education classroom. (Lin has lately claimed both to be autistic or “on the spectrum,” and to have “cured” his own autism.) The characters and situations in Taipei can be described as ostensibly vacant, almost auratic exercises in the ongoingness of waiting for something (which is usually nothing) to happen. And, in a way, that’s precisely the point.
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