Posts Tagged ‘The Stranger’
Comparing Tao Lin to Albert Camus is like comparing apples and orangutans. Not apples and oranges, my friends, as two sweet round fruits aren’t really that different. Would Albert Camus spoof a cover of Time Magazine (or the French equivalent) and parody the article? Would Albert Camus solicit a James Frey type boob to blurb his book? Would Albert Camus host a contest, and then enter the contest under another name, win the contest, and pocket the money (No crap, read Tao Lin Wins His Own Contest Refuses to Refund Money). No way, Albert Camus was too busy cursing human darkness, opposing the Nazi invasion of France, and trying to decipher war and horror in the twentieth century. Tao Lin is no idiot, but he gears down. Some call him an existentialist. Really? Existentialist my ass, Tao Lin has created a new form of thought: narcissentialism. And, contrary to this JMWW reviewer’s opinion, Tao Lin ain’t no Camus.
Let’s compare two versions of The Stranger. First, the Tao Lin parody written by…Tao Lin:
“He’s not the richest or most famous. His characters don’t solve mysteries, have magical powers, or live in the future. But in his new novel, Richard Yates, Tao Lin shows us the way we live now.” “Early readers of Richard Yates have found that the book has a narcotic quality.” “(Lin) likes megamouth sharks, toy poodles and, somewhat jarringly, that ‘ocean sunfish are like hamsters but fish and a lot bigger.”
Ha ha ho ho…now let’s take the classic L’Étranger:
“I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed, so brotherly, made me realize that I’d been happy, and that I was happy still. For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained was to hope that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration.”
Tao Lin and Camus both use short sentences and few words, but Tao Lin is not really a minimalist. Ten pages of thought hidden in 202 pages of Richard Yates does not qualify.The existentialist hallmark is uncertainty toward the universe in context of larger ideas, not simple uncertainty. I like Lin’s blog, his persona, his publicity stunts (he offered investors a percentage of future royalties for $2,000), and realize he is spurring many young authors in North America to read. He has an affect, as “Taolicophants” love to imitate his prose, though his books are tedious.
At any rate, let’s contrast. Albert Camus was French but grew up in Algeria, his formative childhood memory is of his father’s reaction to attending an execution. He witnessed the effects of French colonialism in Algeria and the Nazi Occupation in France, and was a contemporary of Sartre. When Camus began to question Sartre’s leftist views regarding communism their friendship began to deteriorate, but Camus’s doubts about Marxism have been validated by history. After a time as a journalist Camus devoted himself to literary pursuits, including drama. He dedicated himself to trying to find moral solutions within an indifferent universe. His death in 1960 by car accident cut short an important life.
Tao Lin, born of Taiwanese parents, grew up on the East Coast of the USA, and makes his home in New York City. He writes about the dislocated confused suburban/urban dysfunctional pseudo-suffering of today’s youth, but probably has never suffered, and I’m talking the living-in-the-Sudan-suffering, or the beaten-and-violated-by-your-stepfather suffering. Though Tao Lin’s fictional alter-egos irreverently mention, as theme, that they may as well commit suicide…there’s no evidence that Tao will die anytime soon.
Tao Lin ain’t Camus. There’s no parallel in their lives or style. Sure, Tao Lin drops literary names or provides Cliffs Notes summaries of Camus and other authors such as Beckett, Bukowski, and Sartre. Though it must be pointed out, as far as I know, only Taolicophants and not Tao Lin make the comparison.
Bottom line, Richard Yates reads like two hundred pages of nothing but conjunctions, prepositions, and punctuation marks peppered with celebrity names (Tao Lin’s next book?). Tao Lin will, in the end, get what he wants, attention. Nothing wrong with that, all writers crave attention, but my taste is more grooved to a writer who displays consideration for the reader and doesn’t pander to the superficial side of his fans…in other words, a writer who is not so goringly effin’ boring.
Unique review at Tao Lin: American Dork.