Sunday, October 25, 2009


A few years ago, I responded to a Craigslist ad wherein the Craigslist ad writer said he would pay a group of people thirty-five bucks a piece to go to a Tao Lin poetry reading and "heckle" and/or "boo" him. The Craigslist ad writer had linked to a couple of Tao Lin's poems, saying something to the effect of "Don't you think these suck?" I remember not really reading the poems but saying that I would go heckle regardless because it seemed like a fun and easy way to make thirty-five bucks. Dude never got back to me though.

Months later I was working at this job where I would sit at a computer and go on the internet all day. The job involved doing actual shit sometimes but for the most part I just looked at the internet. It was during this time that I came across Tao Lin's blog and read some of his poetry, which I liked a lot, and read some of his interviews, which I also dug. At some point I realized he was the same guy I almost almost got paid thirty-five bucks to heckle and thought this was funny and sent him an email about it and he wrote back being like "Yeah, there are a lot of people who hate me a lot."

And it's true, there seem to be a lot of people on the internet that fucking hate this dude and say pretty mean things about him (give him a Google), which I find kind of funny given the fact that most of the work of his that I'm familiar with reads as almost a kind of incredibly accessible operating manual on how not to be a hater. He writes in a voice that strikes me as sensitive but not sentimental, deadpan but compassionate, journalistic but casual (bloggish), and (importantly, I think) never presumptuous. Detractors seem to read him as smug, cold, empty, vapid and often decry him as a media whore. Actually, the criticism leveraged against him reminds me of a lot of the criticism leveraged against Andy Warhol, whose ideas concerning the conflation of commodity and art and the imaginary division between emotion and intellect seem pretty pertinent to most of Tao Lin's writing that I've read, particularly his new novella, Shoplifting from American Apparel, published by Melville House.

How long did it take you to write Shoplifting from American Apparel?
~800 hours over ~9 months.

Who is the character Luis based on?

Have your parents read SFAA? If so, what do they think of it?
No. I'm mailing them a copy soon. I feel my mom will like it. I feel my dad would find a small detail I didn't think was funny and focus on how funny he thinks it is.

When/if your dad picks out the one thing that he thinks is funny but that you didn't think was funny, do you think you might then find it funny as well?
Yes. I think I will think whatever my dad thinks is funny is funny.

In your opinion, what's the best thing someone's said about SFAA?
Michael Silverblatt said, in his Bookworm interview with me, something like that it is the purest form yet of this type of minimalism and that the prose style is something like Buddhist while quoting John Ashbery as saying that sometimes the language gets in the way of the poetry.

In your opinion, what's the worst thing someone's said about SFAA?
I don't know. Conventionally "worst" things to me seem exciting and interesting to read or hear.

What is one of those "worst" reviews that you have been excited or interested by?

What was the worst/least accurate "praise" you've received?
I'm not sure. Probably the 70-90% of reviews that say I'm indicting something or being "scathing." But I still acknowledge that it is accurate to the person who is thinking that. All opinions seem equally accurate, in my view, from the point-of-view that it is a fact that someone has thought that and expressed it.

Who was your favorite band when you were a kid?
I didn't listen to music that much until I was 13 or 14. Then I liked Smashing Pumpkins for a while.

Who are your personal top five favorite writers?
I like Joy Williams, Ann Beattie, Lorrie Moore, Matthew Rohrer, Frederick Barthelme.

Who are your personal bottom five least favorite writers?
If the following were writers: cats, health insurance, the MTA. I can't think of two more things right now.

Is "Jesus Christ" (the indie band) going to be a continuing project? Did I write the band name correctly?
Yes. No, there is a period after "christ."

Have you read anything by Sasha Frere-Jones? If so, what do you think of him?
I know I have read his writing before, but not enough to form any thoughts about him in relation to his writing, I think.

Is Lil Wayne the best rapper?
I don't know. I like the Wu Tang Clan.

Who are your top five favorite rappers?
Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Ol' Dirty Bastard, the white person in The Mad Conductor, and Stza when he raps.

How many drafts are there in the draft section of your gmail right now? How many are there usually like on average?
159 right now. This seems like an average number.

Are you making enough money off of book-related shit or are you still stealing shit and selling it on eBay?
I'm not making enough money off book-related activities. I'm considering getting a part-time job or doing something else. I probably abstractly think, or non-specifically "worry," about how to get some kind of cash flow for 5-10 hours a day. I'm not stealing batteries and selling them on eBay anymore due to fear of increased penalties if I get caught.

Have you heard the song "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell"? If so, do you like it?
I haven't heard it.

One time I got kind of stoned on weed and wrote: "the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction" in an email text box and then copied and pasted it a lot and then after looking at it for a while I figured I'd send it to you. you were like "thanks." Was that OK?
I don't remember that, "hehe."

I actually tried to sell a print-out of that long ass email with your response at an art show in Northampton, Massachussetts. Nobody bought it. I was trying to sell it for ten bucks, I think. If it sold I would have mailed you half of the profits. I didn't want to ask you if I could cause I thought you might say no. Was that OK? Would you have said no?
I would've said yes. I give you permission to sell or share anything I ever "emit" in your presence. Wanting to send me half the profits seems nice of you. Thank you. I feel excited by things like this.

How tall would you say Moby is?
I think he's 5'6".

Did you know that Moby is related to Herman Melville (which apparently is why he called himself Moby)? Does that come up at all/a lot in most conversations you have about or even peripherally involving Moby?
Yes, I have heard that. It has come up maybe in 20% of my conversations about Moby.

How many conversations, by your estimate, do you think you've had in your life that have even just mentioned Moby even once?
Probably over 200 conversations. I like this interview.

How many times, by your estimate, do you think you have been mentioned in conversation? Like all conversations in the world?
Probably over 10,000,000 conversations. I've been able to speak for probably more than 50,000 days, I think, and I've probably talked about myself twice a day. My mom probably talks about me every day. Committed shit-talkers of me probably talk about me once a day. My publisher probably talks about me once a day. I'm not sure if 10,000,000 is accurate. It could be as high as 100,000,000 or as low as 200,000 maybe.

How many times, by your estimate, do you think Moby has mentioned you in conversation?
Probably three times, while talking to me one time, and maybe while talking to one other person we mutually knew, and maybe one other time.


Buttercup McGillicuddy said...

i genuinely enjoyed reading all of the questions, all of the answers, and some of the introduction on this webpage/in this interview

Kaitlin said...

this was extremely fun to read again in 2012

Austin Islam said...

this interview still yerped up in 2013

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