“An Account of Sharing an Ambien with a Girl I Met One Week Prior at a Party” — Tao Lin

“An Account of Sharing an Ambien with a Girl I Met One Week Prior at a Party” is a short short story (?) by Tao Lin published this week at Thought Catalog. An excerpt–

We went into her room ~6:55PM. She asked if I wanted wine and I said no. She asked again and I said no. I said “I brought the Ambien.” She said something about Tiger Woods and I felt confused and said “we should see if it’s okay with alcohol.” She typed “ambient” into Google. I said “no, that’s the music, delete the t, ambient music.” She laughed and typed “ambien and alcohol and klonopin and” and grinned and said “just kidding.” She deleted all but “ambien and alcohol.” The first result said not to combine Ambien and alcohol. Every result seemed to say that. She clicked the first result. It said not to combine Ambien and alcohol. She said she drank a lot so it was okay.

5 thoughts on ““An Account of Sharing an Ambien with a Girl I Met One Week Prior at a Party” — Tao Lin”

  1. I try. Really. I read Shoplifting from American Apparel and the first 50 pages of Richard Yates. But I don’t get this guy. What am I missing? The above story sounds like something one of my co-workers would have told me while we waited for a copy machine to open up. Is that the appeal? Or is it that he writes about emailing and g-chatting and because he’s young(er)(ish) that makes him relevant? Because the subject matter is blah. And I can’t seem to locate any interesting ideas or concepts in his writing, not even at the structural level. I must be missing something. Tell me. I’m serious. I don’t get it.

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  2. Hi, Chris,
    Thanks for the comment.
    First, I’d say you should feel fine with having read some of Tao Lin’s stuff and deciding that it wasn’t good. Your comment seems like a tidy dissection — neither mean, nor confrontational, just earnestly asking “What’s the big deal?” In other words, I think your opinion is valid and informed, and its conclusion is sound: Lin is a writer you subjectively dislike.

    As far as the (somewhat) objective criteria you mention — interesting ideas, subject matters, structure — I would argue that Lin’s innovations are ones that are of little interest to you and perhaps not “literature” in your opinion — your description of this story as something a coworker might tell you at the copy machine seems accurate and indicative of Lin’s program. I’m not going to argue “that’s what makes it genius” because I don’t think it’s genius — I just think it stretches the terms of what lit is. For me, it’s amusing; I’m also interested in short fiction, like that of Lydia Davis, for instance, that doesn’t really seem to be fiction. At the same time, it’s not the most moving thing in the world.

    In other words, you’re not missing something. Here’s what I wrote in my review of Richard Yates

    “This is all perhaps a way of saying that Lin is clearly attempting something new with his fiction, a kind of writing that abandons most conceits of post-modern cleverness and self-commentary, yet also compartmentalizes the pathos that characterizes social realist novels. This latter comparison might seem odd unless one considers the concreteness of social realist works, their emphasis on the body, on food, on places. Richard Yates shares all of these emphases, yet it divorces them from ideology; or, more accurately perhaps, it documents an as-yet-unnamed ideology, a 21st century power at work on body and soul. If Lin’s goal then is to document these forces, he succeeds admirably–but I want more; more soul, more insight, more, yes, abstraction. Richard Yates gives us the who and the what, replicates the when and where with uncanny ease; it even tells us how. But many readers, like me, will want to know the why, even if it is just a guess. And I’d love to hear Lin’s guess.”

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  3. Thanks, Biblio. I definitely can see what interests you about Lin’s work. I am also a huge fan of short and long fictions that seem to occupy the netherworld between what fiction is supposed to be and what it can be, viz. Lydia Davis, Thomas Bernhard’s The Voice Imitator, and, most recently, a large swath of Gilbert Sorrentino’s work, like The Abyss of Human Illusion, Little Casino, and Strange Commonplace. I am also a big believer that Daniil Kharms wrote some of the best short fiction of the 20th century, and lord knows, his work has almost nothing to do with fiction as most people understand it. What bothers me about Lin is, I don’t know, how blank it is, and not in a Bret Easton Ellis/Shopping in Space kind of way. Lin seems less like a writer to me and more like someone who suffers from a compulsion, much like Vollman, another writer (at the other end of the spectrum from Lin, of course) who doesn’t want to edit himself or wade through the muck in order to find out what about their writing is sharp and what is dull. I guess that’s all I’m trying to say. Lin, to me, is dull. I sense no spark of life in his work. And if his point (not that he has to have one, and I doubt he even does) is that we all float along on the surface having halting conversations with people about shit that doesn’t matter, well, yeah, so what, whatever, and who cares. I guess we are in agreement on this. I just bristle at the idea that Lin is held as some kind of avatar for how twentysomethings think and talk. I feel this is an act of bad faith on the part of those who get to make decisions about who and what is important in contemporary literature. Obviously, though, Lin has tapped into something. What I think he has tapped into, though, is a well that ran dry about 25 years ago. The flattened affect, the autistic cadence, it’s a cliche to me.

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    1. I like your criticism of Vollmann, a writer I am fascinated with, particularly his sheer unreadability. I’ve read a bit about Sorrentino in the past two years (I think there was a general career overview-type essay in The Believer, and then a write-up about “working class” writers somewhere (can’t remember where but I know I linked to it here) . . . I’ll take your comment as a recommendation, along with Bernard’s The Voice Imitator, which I haven’t read. Gracias.

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  4. I have used Ambien for 6 years. It worked very well all the time before they introduced the generic brands. The generics are NOT the same as the original and do not produce the same results. They leave me hung over and each manufacturer has his own brew thus are unpredictable in how they will perform. I have offered to pay the difference to get the real Ambien but with no success. Sure wish this wasn’t so expensive.

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