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Taipei (Vintage Contemporaries Original) Paperback – June 4, 2013

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Original
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First Edition edition (June 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307950174
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307950178
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Guest Review of Taipei, by Tao Lin

By Charles Yu

Charles Yu

Charles Yu is the author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, which was named one of the best books of the year by Time magazine. He received the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award for his story collection Third Class Superhero, and was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award. His work has been published in The New York Times, Playboy, and Slate, among other periodicals. Yu lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Michelle, and their two children.

What does it feel like to be alive? It's an inquiry central to many novels, either explicitly or implicitly, and it has been explored in so many ways, in so many variations and permutations, that it's remarkable when someone finds a new way of asking the question. With Taipei, Tao Lin has managed to do just that. The novel's protagonist, Paul, is a twenty-something writer living in New York City who has at least two extraordinary capabilities: (1) a terrifyingly high tolerance for pharmacological substances, and (2) a prodigious ability to record and recount the moment-to-moment flow of micro-impressions and fleeting sensations of his awareness. While Lin may not be the first writer to combine these two elements in the form of a novel, he is the first one to synthesize them in this particular way, and it is the tension and interaction of these things that make Taipei such a compelling read.

What does it feel like to be alive? Weird. Really weird. That's something very easy to forget - we have an ability to acclimate quickly to our own ambient mental environment. For similar reasons, the fundamental strangeness of being alive is also very hard to articulate. What Tao Lin does is to slow everything down, paying very close attention to everything, registering his findings. The noise and bustle and all-night lights of the big city, first New York City, and then Taipei, the blur of pills and parties and people's faces are presented not as an impressionistic smear, but in careful, deliberate language, prose so precise it cannot be anything but excruciatingly honest. At times, Taipei feels like an experiment, a study on how to use (and abuse) your brain, with Paul communicating in a way that almost feels scientific - he's a scientist studying the strange thing called his self, or an alien who experiences human consciousness as if he were test-driving a brand new technology. It is this detachment which allows Lin to render, in a very pure, very visceral way, what the fringe feels like, a displacement or distance from the center, from your own heart, the psychological impossibility of going to some real or imagined home. Taipei renders all of this with a brute and direct force, and I admit at times that force caused me to flinch. This kind of experience is why I read, though - to be challenged, to be confronted, to experience something completely familiar that has been made entirely new.

From Booklist

This novel follows Paul, a young, Brooklyn-based author, as his drug addiction spirals out of control. Though he experiments at first in the name of artistic expression, Paul becomes consumed by apathy, tripping during interviews and drifting out of touch with old friends. He meets and marries Erin, a fellow artist drug user, and they move to Taipei, Taiwan, where they become performance artists, videotaping themselves while on drugs in public. As their relationship breaks down, Paul nearly overdoses and is finally thankful to be alive. The characters are visibly suffering from loneliness, desperately wounded self-esteem, and an aimlessness that leads them to wander from poetry reading to movie theater to party to party, making the briefest and shallowest of encounters with those around them. Tao Lin’s writing style is definitively unique and mirrors the shifting reality his drugged characters perceive when submerged in their daze. At times, however, it is a haze too thick for the unencumbered reader to peer through. --Sarah Grant

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

I found the characters totally uninteresting and the situations not at all compelling.
Brian J. Greene
The moments where the book is actually insightful and moves the reader occur when Paul and Erin allow themselves to inhabit their emotions completely and unironically.
The Ice King
Its one of those books I guess you gotta try yourself before you really know, its just not for me.
D. Everts

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Peter Mathews on June 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Tao Lin is hot property in the world of contemporary literature, with Taipei, his third novel, being hailed as his breakthrough work. Part of his appeal lies, no doubt, in his capacity to divide: whether as a person and a writer, he tends either to inspire adoration as the voice of his generation or hatred for being a shallow impostor. Lin also complicates matters further by blurring the lines between fiction and autobiography in making Paul, the protagonist of Taipei, into a rather transparent stand-in for his own self. Paul essentially shares every aspect of Tao Lin's history, from his Taiwanese background to his rampant drug use.

One of Lin's champions is Bret Easton Ellis, and it is perhaps no surprise that Taipei is being compared to Ellis's debut novel Less Than Zero (1985). In terms of personality, though, these two writers could not be more different. Unlike the self-promoting, egoistic Ellis, Lin, to coin a term, is a "black hole" provocateur. In the interviews I have read, he comes across as curiously passive and non-committal, much like the protagonist of Taipei, in a way that initially makes me want to punch him in the face for his apparent pretentiousness but, after further consideration, makes me also admire his ability to provoke such a reaction in spite of his utterly flavorless personality (nonetheless, I still want to punch him in the face).

Taipei had a similar effect on me as I was reading it.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By - Kasia S. VINE VOICE on June 19, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I liked the unusual rhythm through the book, it was veiled in a very relaxed manner, the drug use, the dating, the literary life that Paul leads; it was different from what I usually read but enjoyable. The ending was especially surprising in comparison to the tone of the story, it actually made me chuckle.

This is East meets West with Paul and his modern life being blended back with that of his parents in Taipei as Paul travels and talks about his work and his books while constantly high and on drugs. It truly reads like someone’s life, a stream of trippy consciousness. People seem to be shocked at the bits and pieces as if their own lives were spotless, sterile and boring. I don’t think that people should force themselves to read this, many seem to dislike it and that’s fine. We can’t all like the same thing but I had no trouble in my enjoyment, it was pretty fast moving and made me feel happy that this wasn’t my life since I don’t mind being awake and aware when I talk to people but I can see why someone like Paul would need meds and pills considering how most of our modern society sucks. Mental sleepwalkers who point fingers, just read the reviews.

- Kasia S.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By sneaky-sneaky VINE VOICE on December 31, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's just not for me. Gazing into one's own navel and writing about the lint and how uncomfortable it makes me feel as I walk around the city and stare, pout, frown, ogle, and sidelong-glance at other uncomfortable people is not my idea of entertainment. The few gimmicks the author has are used incessantly, Fred, 24, talks to Jane, 26. Off the sidewalk it is soil-y. Remains on the plate are salad-y. Really, -y is an innovation? I'm sure Mr. Lin means well, and it's not his fault he has been tagged as the future's future, but gimme something to work with, maybe a good guy and a bad guy and a car chase, angst just aint doin it for 300 pages.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By B. Rose VINE VOICE on May 12, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I read a bunch -- every day, unless something comes up that keeps me from being able to read -- so I'm not just writing this book off as 'not exciting enough for a non-reader'.

I gave up on this book around 40 pages in after scanning ahead and realizing it didn't look like the tone of the novel was going to change much.

Paul seems subsumed by ennui, reflecting idly on random memories from his past while bumbling through awkward, disconnected social encounters, shuffling down city streets, and mumbling awkward goodbyes, fragmented questions, and smiling inappropriately at odd times in the middle of conversations, or by himself.

The strange convention of introducing characters with their names and associations to the narrator [Paul saw Chuck, 24, an architecture intern, comparing cocktails with Denise, 19, currently an aspiring beret model and barista] and then having Paul play weird mental games with himself while standing in a corner didn't really pull me into the story. I found myself disliking Paul and most of the other people in the story immediately, and grew completely disinterested with their struggles, thoughts, or whatever story was going to unfold really quickly.

This might be entertaining for self-absorbed city types who want to vicariously experience their own personal (and artificial) disaffection and first-world angst through the lens of some fictional character, but I personally didn't find it enjoyable to read.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Chelsea Hicks on April 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I gave this book the lowest rating because I had high expectations and they were disappointed. I read that James Blake liked this book because it was "weird" in an inspiring way. I like stuff like that, a la T.S. Eliot, Lydia Davis, Nabokov. This was all entirely about drugs and depression, and the style was nothing new at all. It was stream of consciousness, very clear and lucid, the only eccentricity in the text was obsessive use of scare quotes, which was quaint. I hated every minute of this book because the relentless and narcissistic focus on a not-well, damaged self brings the reader down with the protagonist. I finished it anyway. The ending suggests a suicide or overdose would follow in a hypothetic next chapter.
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