Shoplifting from American Apparel
By Tao Lin
(Melville House, Paperback, 9781933633787, 112pp.)
Publication Date: September 15, 2009
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The inmate with a mop held back the inmate without a mop.
Set mostly in Manhattan—although also featuring Atlantic City, Brooklyn, GMail Chat, and Gainsville, Florida—this autobiographical novella, spanning two years in the life of a young writer with a cultish following, has been described by the author as “A shoplifting book about vague relationships,” “2 parts shoplifting arrest, 5 parts vague relationship issues,” and “An ultimately life-affirming book about how the unidirectional nature of time renders everything beautiful and sad.”
From VIP rooms in hip New York City clubs to central booking in Chinatown, from New York University’ s Bobst Library to a bus in someone’s backyard in a college-town in Florida, from Bret Easton Ellis to Lorrie Moore, and from Moby to Ghost Mice, it explores class, culture, and the arts in all their American forms through the funny, journalistic, and existentially-minded narrative of someone trying to both “not be a bad person” and “find some kind of happiness or something,” while he is driven by his failures and successes at managing his art, morals, finances, relationships, loneliness, confusion, boredom, future, and depression.
Tao Lin was born in 1983, and raised in Orlando, Florida. In 2007 Melville House published his first two works of fiction, the short story collection Bed, and the novel Eeeee Eee Eeee, simultaneously. Lin quickly became an underground sensation with a huge cult following. In 2008, Lin published his poetry collection, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. It has been assigned as a text book in several college level psychology courses. His most recent novel, Richard Yates, was published by Melville House in 2010.
Praise for Tao Lin's Shoplifting From American Apparel
"Tao Lin writes from moods that less radical writers would let pass—from laziness, from vacancy, from boredom. And it turns out that his report from these places is moving and necessary, not to mention frequently hilarious."
—Miranda July, author of No One Belongs Here More Than You
“A humorous reflection on the instantaneity of Internet-era life and relationships…. The writing stays fresh, thanks to occasional oddball dialogue about everything from Oscar Wilde to what exactly constitutes a fight with a girlfriend. And for all his meandering prose, there’s something charming about Lin’s directness. Writing about being an artist makes most contemporary artists self-conscious, squeamish and arch. Lin, however, appears to be comfortable, even earnest, when his characters try to describe their aspirations (or their shortcomings)…. Purposefully raw.”
—Time Out New York
“Lin’s candid exploration of Sam’s Web existence (and by extension, his own) is full of melancholy, tension, and hilarity… Lin is a master of pinpointing the ways in which the Internet and text messages can quell loneliness, while acknowledging that these faceless forms of communication probably created that loneliness to begin with.”
—The Boston Phoenix
“Somehow both stilted and confessional…. often funny…. Lin is doing his best to capture a mid-twenties malaise, a droning urban existence that—in the hands of a mildly depressed narrator—never peaks nor pitches enough to warrant drama. In a way, it makes more sense to think of Tao Lin as a painter or performance artist; his work attempts to evoke through persistent, dull-edged provocation.”
—Time Out Chicago
"Uniquely sad, funny, and understated in all the right ways. In his most autobiographical work yet, Tao Lin has once again created a book that will polarize ctitics, but reward his fans."
—The Stranger (Seattle)
"Trancelike and often hilarious… Lin's writing is reminiscent of early Douglas Coupland, or early Bret Easton Ellis, but there is also something going on here that is more profoundly peculiar, even Beckettian…deliciously odd.”
"You don't think, 'I like this guy,' or 'I really dislike this guy.' You think, 'huh.' [...] Camus' The Stranger or 'sociopath?'"
—Los Angeles Times
“Tao Lin's sly, forlorn, deadpan humor jumps off the page. […] will delight fans of everyone from Mark Twain to Michelle Tea.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Scathingly funny for being so spare […] just might be the future of literature.”
"Somehow both the funniest and the saddest book I've read in a long time."
—Michael Schaub, Bookslut
"The purest example so far of the minimalist aesthetic as it used to be enunciated."
—Michael Silverblatt, KCRW's Bookworm
“A fragile, elusive little book.”
"Loved it. [...] Shoplifting From American Apparel stands out. And maybe it’s similar, if stylistically opposite, from We Did Porn in this way. Both books are necessary, written for people who don’ t have many books to choose from. They’re not competing with the rest of the books on the shelf. They’re on a different shelf where there aren’t too many books.On that same shelf you’ll find Ask The Dust, Frisk, The Fuck Up, The Basketball Diaries, Jesus Son, several books by Michelle Tea, Last Exit to Brooklyn, and Chelsea Girls. It’s a good shelf to be on, I think. Young, urban, self-sure, engaged. The audience is small but they’ll take you in; they’re looking to connect."
—Stephen Elliott, author of Happy Baby and The Adderall Diaries