Thursday, February 4, 2010

Is Shoplifting from American Apparel the new Catcher in the Rye?

(Ed.: There is a fine line between stupidity and courage and we cross one of the two below. Read Tao Lin's Friday Five.)

Meant to review this properly, but this review then this one and then the death of this author made me think and think some more. So here are a few bold statements.

I liked this book. Against all of my natural inclinations, against my natural prejudice (or jealousy) of Tao Lin's unique style, against the ‘hip’ and cool reference in the title, against his reference of an underground punk-rock festival (to prove how underground/how hip/how cool he really is?), I liked this book.

I liked the breakdown of the Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich. I’m a sucker for fast food references, I think they are still one of the least explored symbols in modern life; they are rich not only in saturated fat but with the meaning/expression of modern life, and yes I include Starbucks in there too and this passage represents why Tao Lin is a good, a frustrating and true writer:
“I long for a Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich,” said Sam.
“We should get them together,” Robert said.
“But I know I won’t feel good eating or after eating it,” said Sam. “I only like thinking about it.
“We should buy them then throw them away,” said Robert.
“Carry it around,” said Sam. “I would do that.”
It is flat. It is supposed to be. In a world of television sets, movie screens, computers, mobile devices and smooth windshields, this is an accurate representation of contemporary life. The style is the subject it represents. Real emotion is flattened when all emotion is tirelessly and endlessly repeated, dictated and shown.
“I feel tired of life”
Shoplifting from American Apparel is the new Catcher in the Rye. Here are my reasons for both books:

An intriguing and somewhat controversial style that delineates generational preferences.
Flat is the new phony.

To happen or not to happen? Doing nothing and more nothing, waiting for the payoff and wondering if there is a payoff.

CITR: “ Anyway, something always happens. I came quite close a couple of times, though. One time in particular. Something went wrong, though--I don’t even remember what anymore.”
SFAA: "I think we are going insane," said Luis. "From not being around people. We are starting to go inside ourselves, and play around inside our own mental illness. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Of course what happens is that everything happens.

The same and the same. That red hat and American Apparel. Drunken phone conversations and bored Gmail chats. Dancehalls = status = brand names. Literary allusions = band names. Thrown out of school = shoplifting and going to jail.

Young adults. Adrift. All those screwballs and hipsters.

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