I still don’t understand the celebrity of Tao. I don’t understand what people enjoy or appreciate “about” his writing, and it makes me feel stupid, like I’m missing the punch line to this great joke and everyone in the whole world is laughing but me, and when I’m lying on my deathbed I’m going to realise that the joke was me. All of us. He embodies the banal. He is the moron in all of us and we love it. Either that, or he’s playing a really excellent prank and is a total genius. I might think that. I might.

Christian Lorentzen recently wrote a piece on Tao in the style of Tao for The New York Observer, which I actually read so while the concept was admirable, it failed in its task of being completely unreadable:

“The Observer said, Tonight I am having dinner with Tao Lin, and I am going to write a profile of him in his style. He writes in a flat style. One thing just happens after another. There is no figurative language, and every time a character thinks something he uses the verb ‘think.’”

The editor picked up Tao Lin’s first book of poems, you are a little bit happier than I am, from The Observer’s desk and started reading it. “This is really bad,” he said.

Tao Lin went to the bathroom.

The Observer thought, “This guy pees a lot.”

Five minutes later The Observer said, “I am going to write a profile of you in your style.”

Tao Lin said, “You should end it with a sentence like the one I’m saying now.”

And more recently, Tao wrote on Tao for The Stranger. Okay. The concept was digestable - a parody on Time magazine’s recent piece on Franzen. But I still couldn’t read it. I started. I tried. The comments are actually better reading:

"I’m confused. Is this parody? I can’t read it. I mean I literally can’t force my way through the sentences past the third paragraph. All I really know is that it makes me want to push Lin into the path of a train, which makes me think it’s authentic."

"Tao Lin’s genius is that he has invented being obnoxious. Before him nobody ever did that. Or something."

"This is fucking hilarious! Some people don’t understand, or like, but that’s
ok. Don’t hate the writer, hate the game."

"That’s nonsense. I look at it this way. Some great books, some people don’t like. It took me 5 times to get past the first 50 pages of “Love in the Time of Cholera,” but once I did, I fucking loved it. And Moby Dick, I never made it past page 100, but I loved much of it, and plan to try again. The explanation of the ship lost me, as maybe the parody and hamsters and lack of opinions/neutral facial expressions lost you. Maybe we need to try and read the metaphorical “Moby Dick” again. That’s where I go to find solace. The sea. I find my Mody Dick."

"i don’t give a fuck, tao lin rules"

I still feel confused though. What is it? Is it that he cultivates a forum through which we can discuss what defines good and bad writing? Is it that he gives us hope because we know we can be better than this?

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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