Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Morning in Williamsburg: Tao Lin's "Richard Yates"

Our neighbor, the charming and debonair Tao Lin, dropped off a copy of his latest novel Richard Yates in our mailbox the other day, and we enjoyed reading it yesterday and this morning. It's a gripping tale of doomed first love among today's turbulent youth. This book represents the future of American literature. Run, don't walk, to your nearest online bookstore and order a copy. As Publishers Weekly wrote,
This slick yet affecting novel depicts the manically self-absorbed days and nights of "Dakota Fanning" and "Haley Joel Osment." That the two share names with famous child stars, and that the title references a celebrated novelist, indicates our specific moment in time, but otherwise this is not a book "about" either the actors or the author. Born in 1983, Lin (Shoplifting from American Apparel) portrays a generation unable to engage and left lost, lonely, and dangerously obsessive as a result. Gmail chat and text message appear in heavy rotation, as the young lovers become more and more incapable of anything beyond their melancholic fixation with each other. The prose is rhythmic and lean, but strangely captivating, ultimately serving to echo the lack of interest the characters seem to have in anything other than themselves. Following them proves disconcerting and exhausting, especially as nothing keeps happening. Lin's sensibility is hip and ironic, but also feels ominously clairvoyant. As the author himself has become something of an icon to the very generation he portrays, one gets the sense that the disaffected youth are in on something the rest of us can only read about; given how bleak that world appears, reading about it feels relentless enough.

Better yet, because this novel has been published in a special print-on-demand (POD) process where the text of each copy is slightly variant, buy at least half a dozen copies of Tao Lin's Richard Yates to get the full effect of this remarkable book.

We are grateful to Tao Lin for sharing his work with us and the world.