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Richard Yates: A Novel Paperback – September 7, 2010
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Guest Reviewer: Bill Clegg
From Publishers Weekly
This slick yet affecting novel depicts the manically self-absorbed days and nights of "Dakota Fanning" and "Haley Joel Osment." That the two share names with famous child stars, and that the title references a celebrated novelist, indicates our specific moment in time, but otherwise this is not a book "about" either the actors or the author. Born in 1983, Lin (Shoplifting from American Apparel) portrays a generation unable to engage and left lost, lonely, and dangerously obsessive as a result. Gmail chat and text message appear in heavy rotation, as the young lovers become more and more incapable of anything beyond their melancholic fixation with each other. The prose is rhythmic and lean, but strangely captivating, ultimately serving to echo the lack of interest the characters seem to have in anything other than themselves. Following them proves disconcerting and exhausting, especially as nothing keeps happening. Lin's sensibility is hip and ironic, but also feels ominously clairvoyant. As the author himself has become something of an icon to the very generation he portrays, one gets the sense that the disaffected youth are in on something the rest of us can only read about; given how bleak that world appears, reading about it feels relentless enough.
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Top customer reviews
But when I allowed my suspension of disbelief to snap, when I stopped trusting the author, it all came crumbling down, and I couldn't read more than a few sentences without rolling my eyes. It felt like listening to the kid in your freshman dorm who seemed so wise and fascinating, and then meeting him again three years later and thinking he's just full of it. The type who wears lamé American Apparel leggings and an artfully holey American Apparel tank top at 3 pm on a Wednesday in the Lower East Side. Just, no thanks.
To get a feel for the style of the writing, check out some of the other reviews here, especially the top ones. They're written in the same way as the book. Short sentences with simple structures that say facts. One after another. Maybe repeating words from the previous one, to really dig deep. Seems fresh at the beginning, and I liked doing the extra work that this style masterfully encourages, but after a while, it just grated on me.
Worth picking up to see what all the fuss is about, and I can't wait to see what Tao Lin does when his less-than-subtle style matures a bit. But for now, this isn't my favorite book. Even though I'm in my 20s and live in Brooklyn.
I will give this book to my brother (not a book reader) this weekend & know he won't be able to put it down. It's upsetting and really funny.
You're face to face with people you know -- or are afraid of -- or for.
If you don't know people like this or identify with them a bit; you may feel revolt, you will want to look away, but you won't.
What else? -- just looking forward to more work from the writer.
More life & death defying steps across the street.
The lifted gmail chats are what really make you feel a voyuer and what you find through them is a terrible mirror held up to the characters. I like this novel comparatively to his other work in that it's less desolate. There ARE characters, not just random encounters. Tao Lin works on the fringe, he trys to present the world as it is, where no one changes, most things bore us and everyone is two dimensional. This is the edge of tolerable literatere and it takes a real talent to make us sit on the edge with him and not walk away. To defy the conventional aproach to creating an entertaining story. This is why he divides. And I'll take what he presents: an indiference to life and apply it to his work.