My 2013: Tao Lin – June

Why the internet's favourite writer unplugged his modem and released alt lit's major label debut

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Tao Lin Coco Young

Tao Lin is, depending on who you ask, alt lit's posterboy / criticism lightning rod / best in class. The 31-year-old Brooklyn-based writer released of five books on independent or DIY presses since 2006, in particular his own MuuMuu Press. More significantly, perhaps, he made his name the way so many of us did: on the internet. Part of a generation of writers who grew up in public, releasing art, poetry and stories through PDFs and blogs, even crowd-funding an advance for a novel – and, in a true sign of net fame, receiving a Gawker diss and meme-ification on 4Chan. 

This year, however, he released Taipei – a semi-autobiographical account of mid-late 20s life as a touring writer from Brooklyn, full of deadpan angst, genuinely poetic prose and lots and lots of prescription drugs. Its major label release and slew of unapologetically terrific reviews been seen as a vindication for alt lit – the gaseous scene of writers who like him developed through the networks of reading and the internet. A writer by, for and of our times, we spoke to Tao over email about his year. 

"How did I change the year? I'm stoned right now, and it seems impossible to answer this question. How was the release of Taipei? My reflexive answer to questions asking how something was in interviews is always 'It was good,' it seems. Then I try to think of something else to say, because 'It was good' was thought automatically, without meaning anything. But then the other things I type seem even less accurate. 

Muumuu press is going good. We just printed a 2nd edition of Megan Boyle's selected unpublished blog posts of a mexican panda express employee. We are having a holiday reading at KGB Bar on December 15. It's going well. More books will probably be published soon. I see if I like their writing. I see if whether my publishing them will change our relationship. If I like their writing, and think that publishing them or not publishing them won't change our relationship, and (for books) if I have money and feel like doing the work, and (for things on the website) if I feel like doing the work, I'll publish them. Rontel by Sam Pink.

“Lowlights / highlights? It's all one light”

Would I say I was a divisive figure? It depends on the context. If someone was calling me a divisive figure, like approaching me in public with their arm out shouting at me that I'm a divisive figure, I don't think I would agree with them. I'd run away or something. If they're quietly whispering to me in like a cafe, asking if I'm a divisive figure, I might say 'yeah,' but just to get them to stop talking about. It depends. I don't like to think about whether someone is a divisive figure or not, so in most other cases I'd try to avoid the question. 'Avoiding the question' is also an answer. I think it's impossible to get something wrong about a work of fiction. In my view, I mean. Whatever a person experiences is as legitimate as any other experience, and I encourage people to view their experience in this manner, I think. I agree with anyone's opinion, in that I agree that, if they say it seems that way to them, it's true it seems that way to them. Everyone has their own truth in them. In my view, no, not in Taipei. Their existences end at the last word, in my view. I'm trying to view characters and novels as literally characters and novels, because if you think of them as people in the universe, it can be limiting when thinking of dimensional things.

My year was nice, I enjoyed parts of it. Lowlights / highlights? It's all one light, or I'd like to try to view it that way. I used the internet less. I threw away my modem and procrastinated around 3 months to figure out how to get the internet again. People who used to blog are now mostly on Twitter. I like it more now maybe. If I wrote a memoir about 2013, what would it be called? It would be called DMT maybe and have info about DMT and mushrooms."

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