Tao Lin is the author of many things, most notably Taipei, Shoplifting from American Apparel, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and Richard Yates. In addition to being a super successful writer, Tao Lin is also a really personable, professional and insightful dude. But, if you google Tao Lin's new novel, "Taipei," you're sure to run across such words as "polarizing" and "cult following." Paper Darts asked Safy-Hallan Farah to interview Tao Lin for Paper Darts Volume 5. Read a portion of that interview below, and then meet the man in person tonight at the Paper Darts Pop-Up. RSVP!
SAFY-HALLAN FARAH: Taipei encapsulates a lot of your most recent experiences, making it somewhat autobiographical. Was there anything you specifically left out for fear that there would be consequences?
Tao Lin: I tried to leave out what might cause “zoning out,” but I’m not sure if I was motivated, in this, by fear. I didn’t think of consequences like going to jail, which is something I might fear, because it’s fiction. It’s labeled fiction and I would like for readers to read it as fiction. My goal with fiction isn’t to document my memory but to create a nonrhetorical effect.
SHF: You don’t shy away from taboo topics like drugs, masturbation, and depression. Is there anything you’re too embarrassed to write about?
TL: I’m not sure if I know the meaning of “embarrassed” in terms of writing fiction. I associate embarrassment with the present and with concrete reality, I think, but no one is watching me or reading my work while it’s being written.
I get embarrassed in social situations. I’m too embarrassed sometimes to go to certain social gatherings, or to talk to certain people.
SHF: You did a lot of Adderall, Xanax, Klonopin, and Percocet while writing Taipei. Paul does drugs too, especially MDMA. You reference Lil Wayne’s “drug problem.” Paul doesn’t believe there’s such a thing as a “drug problem” or even “drugs.” Do you believe that yourself?
TL: I don’t have static beliefs, or maybe any beliefs. I’m one of many perspectives, all of which are unique and equally legitimate, it seems, so I wouldn’t say that there is no such thing as a “drug problem” without qualifying with something like “to me, at this moment, I think.”
I don’t think Paul doesn’t believe there is such a thing as a “drug problem.” To believe something like that would be to deny the existence of people who believe the opposite. I think, in that part of the book, Paul is more trying to say something about how he feels depressed by the way a certain documentary about Lil Wayne seems to confidently ignore Lil Wayne’s perspective on his own life.
SHF: There’s a character named Gabby in the book. Unrelated, but do you consider yourself a fan of Gabby Gabby, the “alt lit” poet? If so, what other “alt lit” figures are you paying attention to? Do you consider yourself “alt lit”?
TL: I try not to think about people as part of groups, but as individuals. In terms of myself, I try not to consider myself [any term]. One reason I try to avoid defining or earnestly using [any term] is to avoid further training my brain to discern abstractions instead of uniqueness, so that when I encounter [person/thing] my brain won’t as strongly discern [term] and inaccurately transfer qualities of [term] to [person/thing].
SHF: Why did you name your protagonist "Paul"?
TL: It's one syllable and I hadn't used it yet for a main character of a novel.
SHF: Did you ever ghost-write any of Carles’ Hipster Runoff posts?
TL: Not that I currently remember.
SHF: Who are your favorite poets?
TL: Matthew Rohrer, Michael Earl Craig, Ben Lerner, Chelsey Minnis. Ryōkan. Friends I've published books by via Muumuu House—Brandon Scott Gorrell, Ellen Kennedy, Megan Boyle.
SHF: Where do you see yourself in five years, as a writer?
TL: I really don't know at all. It seems like most of my output—what I've published, when I've published it, the tone/content of it, if it's stories or poems or emails or blog posts—has been the result of pre-literary circumstances, mostly financial and romantic, in my life, not from any kind of plan. I probably currently am most interested in writing novels, however; so, if everything else were stable (if I had financial security, wasn't distracted by an unstable romantic relationship, wasn't busy doing promotional things for a book), I'd probably try to write two novels in the next five years.
Wednesday, June 26 — 7:00-9:30 p.m.
SooLOCAL / 3506 Nicollet Ave S. in Minneapolis
Pioneer Press recommends the Tao Lin reading today (6/26) at the #pdpopup to fans, foes, and anyone who wants to know more about this man who's getting all kinds of media attention. Brought to you by Common Good Books and Paper Darts, alt lit author Tao Lin will read from his new book, Taipei, followed by a question and answer session with Jay Gabler of The Tangential. Common Good Books is a full service independent bookstore in the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood of Saint Paul.
All rights reserved to Safy-Hallan Farah
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