I Gave My Little Brother a Tao Lin Book for Christmas


Spilt Milk – North American Hamsters by subbacultcha (lyrics from the first page of Richard Yates)

I gave my little brother Aaron a Tao Lin book for Christmas, which he accepted with a polite facial expression and said, “Bed” after unwrapping it halfway.

Mom said, “Ooh, cool book cover.”

I think the cover of Bed is supposed to be a purple Nessie on a field of baby blue, which I would presume is water. (I was trying to describe it to myself from memory but when I looked at the book cover, I realized my memory of the Nessie figure is a lot more detailed than the actual illustration and the sea-beast’s head is facing left instead of right. Right is right, as in correct.)

My little brother said, “I’ve been reading more.”

I said, “Yeah, I know. I wanted to take advantage of that. Or encourage that…. This guy is kind of weird but it’s good.”

“Cool. I like stuff like that.”

“Good.” I don’t know how to talk about literature with my brother.

We hugged when I opened his gift to me. The gift was a “statement necklace” with chunky flowers on it. My heterosexual brother is good at picking out jewelry for women ie: my mother and I. Aaron doesn’t have a girlfriend but he told me an Asian girl who was possibly flirting with him at a party the other night was “hot.”

Things Aaron possibly has taste in: Jewelry, girls.

Things Aaron has not yet developed taste in/for: Foods that are not high in carbohydrates during his high school’s wrestling season, books that are not comic books.

I had actually never read any of Tao Lin’s books until September 2010. I had read some of his work online but didn’t really care for it at first. I think I was resisting him as a literary “it boy.”

On the day Richard Yates came out, I went to a local bookstore with a boy I was in a vague relationship with to see if we could find it. He ripped a page out of my moleskin notebook and left a note on the shelf saying he recommended this book but hadn’t read it, “also, I think I hate this guy.”

We sat on the floor of the bargain section and he read to me while I giggled/felt moved by Dakota Fanning talking about hamsters and being glad to not have babies. Then the boy bought Richard Yates and I bought a cupcake with purple frosting on it at a cupcake bakery a few blocks away.

We went to Tao’s reading a few weeks later after he appeared on the cover of The Stranger looking like Jonathan Franzen on the cover of TIME. Tao Lin walked across the back of the bookstore’s basement reading room and greeted or was greeted by some people I knew from events at another independent bookstore.

A bookstore employee introduced him as “Dao Lin” with a superior tone.

Tao Lin had a happy/excited facial expression until he stood at the podium where he (intentionally?) knocked a small reading light onto the floor. The batteries fell out of the light and he developed a shit-eating grin type facial expression.

During the Q&A session, a Caucasian hipster male asked Tao Lin if he thought all the characters in his books had to be white for the books to sell.

Tao Lin said, “I don’t think I talk about the race or appearance of characters. Actually I think I assume all my characters are Asian.”

I think I started reading Tao Lin to impress boys before I started to like his writing. All the boys I have impressed by reading Tao Lin are Asian. I think that is potentially two boys.

I tried writing an essay called “Reading Tao Lin in Public” but it didn’t go anywhere because I read most of Bed and Richard Yates while in the bathtub and Today The Sky is Blue and White with Bright Blue Spots and a Small Pale Moon and I Will Destroy Our Relationship Today is online only so people around me couldn’t tell what I was looking at on my Macbook.

Tao Lin has slept in my boyfriend’s bed. They watched Planet B-Boy and listened to Rilo Kiley together. I have exchanged one e-mail with Tao Lin wherein I asked him if the story Haley Joel Osment reads in Richard Yates “about a severely depressed woman in rural Illinois,” was David Foster Wallace’s story “The Depressed Person.” Haley was actually reading a Lorrie Moore story I had not heard of. I felt shy or embarrassed and didn’t reply to the e-mail.

I didn’t write any of this in the note I put with my brother’s Christmas present, nor did I talk about how Tao’s work is important because it is so in this time, so anti-transcendental. Instead I drew two hamsters and wrote about the author’s tangible achievements w/r/t the author’s age. I think I was trying to write the note in an encouraging tone. In the note I also (possibly erroneously) compared the book to Catcher in the Rye because both books talk about loneliness in a generation-specific way. Catcher in the Rye was the first book my brother has been excited about in a long time. I was riding his hype.

I don’t think Aaron did any reading on Christmas day. When I went to bed, Bed was still lying under the Christmas tree and he was playing his new PS3 Move with a serious facial expression.

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2 thoughts on “I Gave My Little Brother a Tao Lin Book for Christmas

  1. I love this. And you’ve successfully inspired me to read some Tao Lin, because I haven’t ever.

    I also love that Aaron responded to Catcher in the Rye. It’s good to know someone likes Salinger.

  2. Don’t worry, I can’t discuss literature with my sister either. Maybe they will finally realize they need to marry each other and they can just discuss books together.

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