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Friday, September 23, 2011

"Richard Yates", Tao Lin's insult to literature

Richard Yates- Tao Lin

I'm very sorry for the title of my post. But that's how I feel after reading this book. And the mere fact he is using the name and surname of Richard Yates, in my opinion, one of the best writers this world has ever read, as the title of his novel, to me is offensive. I don't believe he did it ironically. Worse, I don't care if he did. The result is exactly the same. This book is awful.

I didn't know about Tao Lin's over-hype. I guess that not being American it was something completely alien to us. I didn't have any previous opinion about him either, but after reading the novel I made a little search and sadly, it has not helped at all. Read this little fragment of an interview made on a Spanish diary. Again, I don't care if he's being ironic or what. That's the answer of a total jerk (depression is quite a serious thing for many people).

"Are you as depressed and unhappy as is assumed in your books? I don't know. Maybe. But other people depressed is unable to do anything. I have published six books. And I take antidepressants just for fun".

Kafka for the iPhone generation? That's a very offensive insult to the Czech genious. The writer for the facebook generation? Excuse but I know lots and lots of people that use facebook regularly (me included) and are not stupid. 

Sorry if I'm taking my time to write about the author and not about the novel. I am. But that's because there's not much to talk about the book. This novel is a trifle. Maybe it wasn't Lin's goal, just a marketing strategy, but contrary to what the say, "Richard Yates" doesn't reflect the reality of the world we are living, with modern kids who live their life through a social network or a chat. Lin's book just shows reflect the lack of talent of someone who constructs simple verb phrases after simple verb phrases (X says, Y says) and the most tedious voice I ever read in literature. 

Dakota and Haley are impossible characters. Not only their ages and educational levels have no relation with how they talk/chat/sms each other, that would be more associable to 10-12 year old kids, but they are plain clichés too. Just two words that resume my point: depressed and suicide, used ad infinitum. If  the book was just a short story of no more than 20 pages it could pass as a joke, or if, at least, the kids fulfilled their promise and commit suicide...

Empty, profoundly superficial and topical, without a direction (plot? still wondering), I promise that finishing only a bit more than 200 pages has been to me like reading Tolstoy's "War and Peace" twice. Some critics say his prose is the most accurate expression of the minimalist approach. That's another offensive comparison. If authors like Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff where called minimalists was because they wanted to eliminate everything superficial, accessory, irrelevant from their works. But Lin's case is the opposite. What can you do when you have nothing else than superficiality and irrelevance on your book?

Tao Lin has said this is sort of an autobiography, that he wrote for himself. That concludes any debate about its (lacking) quality. In my opinion, it would have been excellent if he had decided to keep it for himself. But opens another one: why was this published? I think that has to do with these tendency of looking for and selling trends. You find that author, you create a categorization for him/her (post-post-modernism? how cool sounds that, right?) and hire/influence some critics that will say this is "the next big thing". Oh, and you can always say people that doesn't get is because they are not prepared for anything new or challenging, or that they didn't get the irony of it. Yes, the irony. Look how I'm laughing.

SCORE: 0,75/10

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