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Shoplifting from American Apparel (The Contemporary Art of the Novella) Paperback

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Product Details

  • Series: The Contemporary Art of the Novella
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (September 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933633786
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933633787
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Internet has spawned a generation exceedingly more awkward, apathetic and lost than any that has come before—at least, this seems to be the message and intention of Lin's underwhelming novella (after Eeeee Eee Eeee and Bed). Sam, a young writer with good rankings on Amazon, works at an organic vegan restaurant and spends much of his time checking e-mails and instant messaging with his equally detached friends while wandering downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. There is, indeed, the shoplifting of a T-shirt (and, later, earphones), the acts—both of which end in Sam's arrest—motivated by a need for variety. Though Lin strives to paint a portrait of a generation of disaffected youth caught in the soft blue light of Internet Explorer, this offers little more than lackadaisical pop culture reportage that reads mostly like a diary rendered in third person. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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."
largehearted boy

"A revolutionary."
The Stranger (Seattle)

"Prodigal, unpredictable."
Paste Magazine

"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.”
The Guardian

"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.”
Austin Chronicle

"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.”
Village Voice

Very funny."
USA Today

"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

More About the Author

Tao Lin (b. 1983) is the author of 7 books of fiction & poetry. His 3rd novel TAIPEI was published by Vintage on June 4, 2013. His work has been published by New York Times, New York Times Book Review, Granta, Noon, Mississippi Review, New York Observer, Vice, Gawker, The Believer, Poetry Foundation. He has taught a graduate course on "The Contemporary Short Story" at Sarah Lawrence College. He edits the literary press Muumuu House & lives in Manhattan. (Photo by Noah Kalina.)

Customer Reviews

They should understand these books, they should be understanding Lin.
Josh Batista
If you like good writing, American writing, realistic writing, or just want to try something new, or just want to be judgmental: buy this book.
Shane H. Leach
It was only 103 short pages, but I still felt that it was ultimately mind-numbing to read through because of how frustratingly stupid it was.
Dmitriy Kogan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Sam Pink on April 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
i read shoplifting twice. i liked it the first time, and liked it more the second time. it's about a young writer living in new york, and his life. there were a lot of funny parts. the funniest part, to me, is when the main character is in jail and lying on a cot and thinking about "raweos." a lot of reviews i've read talk about how it's about "nothing." but that is impossible. shoplifting made me think about how much time passes when you're younger, and a lot of that time is spent as if watching it pass. the ending is really good. i recommend this book for people who want to read a well-written, calm account of life in america for a young writer.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By C. Richards on September 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
Shoplifting From American Apparel centers on the life of a young writer living in New York looking at the aimlessness and detachment in his life. The story doesn't flow from event to event in a clear progression but rather wanders from seemingly random point to random point.

Tao Lin's poetry and fiction has earned him a reputation as a clever, innovative young writer, but this novella feels at times like an experiment that got away from its author. The banal conversations, shallow cultural ephemera, and the detachment of the characters from the reality in front of them serves the work by emphasizing the alienation and purposelessness the main character feels. However, the plotlessness and lack of meaningful relationships or articulated desires left me cold as a reader. With the exception of smart dialogue, there is little in the writing style to make up for the lack of excitement in the storyline or characters. I had difficulty engaging with the book either intellectually or emotionally because of its simple, unadorned style and its lack of story.

In terms of the restless desires of youth and the frustrations of artists to make something of their lives, Lin crafts near-perfect dialogue between Sam, the emerging author, and his friends. Their exchanges are at once hilarious and painful both in their dry wit and the distance between what they might want for themselves and what they actually have. I just wish the rest of the novella, was as good as some of these brief passages from gmail chat and isolated conversation. I think other books have been more successful at capturing this sense, and certainly more engaging than Shoplifting from American Apparel (for instance Kunkel's Indecision or Bolano's Savage Detectives). Tao Lin may have some exciting books yet to write, but I would not recommend this one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ramzi Shalabi on May 5, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
unlike many of the other reviews ive seen of tao's books, i acknowledge what the book is without thinking of those characteristics as faults. that being said though, this book kinda just slid by for me. thats probably what he wanted to make as a book though, so thats cool. im glad this book exists because sometimes people who havent read in a while (cuz they cant find books they like) need a book like this. its simple and easy to read and (for me and others of my generation b. 1987) it depicts life in a similar way to how i experience it.

and that serves an important function. discovering tao and the other alt lit stuff is for writers like what discovering punk rock is for musicians: it shows you that to do what comes naturally is ok, that what other people think of as good is actually irrelevant and that you should just do what you want. its liberating. its liberating because you read it and see that the writing is simple and autobiographical and that hey "i can do this too!"

the reason i give it 3 stars is because thats what i think it deserves, but i dont mean it as an insult or anything. the world needs 3 stared books. they serve a purpose, and serving purposes is something tao is great at and its something that is missing from most people who do things in the world
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S Kew on October 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
Thinly veiled satire on real life in a unique way. Enjoyed how terribly straightforward it was - streamlined thought processes at random intervals. Tao Lin makes jail sound a lot less exciting than jail in Bridget Jones' Diary 2: The Edge of Reason. 'SHOPLIFTING FROM AMERICAN APPAREL' was given to me to review and, in order to review this, I ended up purchasing another two (2) Tao works (Eeeee Eee Eeee and Richard Yates). This is capitalism on new literary voice at its finest. Enjoy your new novella, considerate purchaser. Enjoy your money, Tao.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By mikedoeseverything on January 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a short book. The ending is really good. Tao Lin also, is a good writer. He will make you think about the way you think. He will make you realize that everyone is different and awkward really doesn't mean anything after all since we all end up having our "moments" of...strangeness.

Put simply, Tao Lin's SHOPLIFTING FROM AMERICAN APPAREL is quite interesting to read and rather fascinating in concept. I say this because Lin uses a style of writing that is both precise and minimalist. In a recent interview, he even stated that he will spend months looking at the same sentence, over and over again, each day omitting words until he arrives at a point where he is satisfied with it. Many beginning writers will attempt to adopt this writing style, which is a shame. Though it is not apparent, minimalist writing is arguably more complicated and possibly more frustrating than adopting the usual descriptive prose that can be found and read in many modern texts today. Minimalism not only takes away, but it also adds so much more with the `silences.' Lin, who has only used this style in SHOPLIFTING IN AMERICAN APPAREL and RICHARD YATES proves that he can do much more. EEEEE EEE EEEE and BED both adopt a different style of writing, which I appreciate. Furthermore, Lin's essay-style is completely different, so for all of you who disapprove of Lin's minimalist approach in this text, please stop.

Just read it. It should only take you a couple hours.
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