“Tao Lin” — Michael Kimball

Tao Lin was born in Flagstaff, AZ. He had a very busy childhood that involved practicing the piano a lot. When he was 5, Tao remembers writing little books and selling them to his mother for 50¢. When Tao was small, his neighbor had a rabbit farm and sold them for money. Being near that changed Tao, and, because of it, he talks less shit about people publicly and makes fewer grand pronouncements.

Growing up, Tao played kickball and baseball and basketball in the neighborhood, but not at school. When he was 10, he was playing poker with his neighbor and bet his entire coin collection. The neighbor won and Tao picked up his coin collection and ran back to his house and locked the door. The neighbor knocked a lot and said things like this: “Just give me half. I won’t be angry.”

Tao kept practicing the piano until he no longer owned a piano that worked. Then, at New York University, he studied journalism, but he would have studied creative writing if there had been a program. His sophomore year, he broke up with his girlfriend and then decided to focus really hard on writing. After that, Tao wrote and published a few books. As Tao has noted in interviews, his writing expresses crippling loneliness, severe depression, and the arbitrary nature of the universe. Also, Tao enjoys repeatedly looking at Statcounter, Sales Rank Express, Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, and Tumblr. When a number changes, he feels like something has happened. His job is to promote himself to ensure money will come to him 2-3 years from now, and then even after that.

Everything is just something Tao does. It can be either good or bad depending on the way he thinks about it. Once, Tao thought about peeing in an empty FYXX energy drink bottle and selling it on eBay. Another time, after he ran out of money, Tao sold 10% shares of his second novel to six different people for $2,000 per share. He will never get another real job for the rest of his life. Tomorrow, Tao would like to eat only raw vegan foods.

Update : Tao published some more books. He also married Megan Boyle and they later separated.

“Tao Lin” is part of Michael Kimball’s new book Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (On a Postcard), which is new from Mud Luscious Press. Interview and review forthcoming. This piece is republished with the kind permission of the author.

 

Books Acquired, 5.17.2012—Or, Here’s What’s New from Picador This June

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Nice little batch from the good folks at Picador, including Bill Loehfelm’s thriller The Devil She Knows, Mohamed ElBarardei’s The Age of Deception, an analysis of nuclear politics, and Michael Cunningham’s Land’s End, which I assume is a novelization of the clothing catalog.

Also in the batch: Denis Johnson’s novella Train Dreams, which I read in one sitting this Sunday. It’s a perfect novella, its pathos balanced with humor, its realism tempered in something of the mythic spirit of the American frontier. Full review forthcoming.

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Miroslav Penkov’s collection East of the West looks pretty cool.

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Here’s a description from his website:

A grandson tries to buy the corpse of Lenin on eBay for his Communist grandfather. A failed wunderkind steals a golden cross from an Orthodox church. A boy meets his cousin (the love of his life) once every five years in the river that divides their village into east and west. These are Miroslav Penkov’s strange, unexpectedly moving visions of his home country, Bulgaria, and they are the stories that make up his charming, deeply felt debut collection.

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Donald Antrim’s debut Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World has also been reissued with a new intro by Jeffrey Eugenides. Here’s an excerpt of the novel:

It was Friday, the day of the big theriomorphism workshop Rotary luncheon out at the Holiday Inn. My wife, Meredith, and I and a crowd of red-faced Rotarians and their well-dressed wives (Rotary Anns) sat around hotel banquet tables and listened to a visiting anthropology professor at the junior college say, “Pick an animal, any animal, fish, fowl, beast. Concentrate on aspects of the animal. Is it big? Small? Cute? Does it eat other animals? What color fur? If the animal is a bird, what color are its feathers? What song does it sing?”

“This is stupid,” I whispered to Meredith.

“It’s your fault we’re here, Pete. Why don’t you give it a chance?”

The anthropologist said, “Why don’t we all think about it for a minute? Okay, everybody got one?”

“Yes,” “No,” “Wait,” people said. Meredith whispered, “What’s yours?”

“I don’t know, what’s yours?”

“Coelacanth.”

“The prehistoric fish?”

“I need a volunteer,” declared the professor. Meredith raised her hand, and the man at the podium said, “Yes, back there. Tell us your name and the name of the animal you’ve chosen to become today.”

“Meredith Robinson. Coelacanth. It’s a kind of fish that scientists believed extinct until one was caught off the coast of Africa.”

“Excellent. Come forward. Sit here. Would someone please dim the lights?” I watched Rotary guys watch my wife. Bill Nixon, Tom Thompson, Abraham de Leon, Dick Morton, Terry Heinemann, Robert Isaac—all the usuals, plus others. Jerry and his wife, Rita, sat up front. The professor soothingly said, “Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and tell us about the coelacanth. Everybody else, let’s all breathe deeply too, and be thinking about our own animals. Go ahead, Meredith.”

“Well, it’s four feet long, deep slate blue, with bony, protruding fins and big jaws with scary teeth. It goes back seventy million years. It moves slowly, it dwells in dark water.” The professor nodded. Audience members inched forward in their seats. Meredith said, “At night it swims upside down with its head pointed to the sea bottom, bobbing along.”

“A feeding technique?”

“Maybe.”

“How’s the water?” I could see Meredith’s head settle forward as she softly answered, “Cold.”

“Feel the cold. Breathe that cold. Inhale that water. What do you feel?”

“Colors.”

“Colors?”

“Blue, black, indigo.”

Buy J.D. Salinger’s Toilet

Buy J.D. Salinger’s toilet on eBay

Only one million dollars? For the Toilet Commode that Salinger PERSONALLY OWNED & USED?! Hmmm . . . could it be a phony?

“It will come to you uncleaned”? Wow.