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Shoplifting from American Apparel (The Contemporary Art of the Novella) Paperback – September 15, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
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"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
Top Customer Reviews
Reading this novel was physically painful for me. I kept glancing at all of my unfinished novels on my desktop and thinking "holy f***, and here I've been, thinking I'm not good enough..."
Maybe that's the admirable quality, to take from Tao Lin, father of our generation's progressive alt lit movement- every half-assed thought you think is worthy of publication. I guess that sort of confidence is worth something.
And I can appreciate that. Honestly. The writing community is full of self-deprecating bums, such as myself,so cheers to him for looking at a word document and saying to himself "this is enough."
The thing I have a problem with, is the constant references to the main character's iced coffee and vegan diet and what have you. We get it. A bit heavy handed with the character development, don't you think, Tao Lin? Sam is a "cool hipster." Gotcha. Once is enough.
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
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm usually apprehensive to giving out either five or one star ratings, though I feel that this book thoroughly deserves the 1/5 I'm giving it. Read morePublished 21 months ago by ny889
check out Tao Lin's ex-girlfriend's twitter @alonewiththeTV, she's told it how it was: "cos you all just think its totally cool that tao lin f****d n belittled me for a year... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Ryan Tharp
Stupid, silly possibly brilliant book. I actually think I learned something.Published 22 months ago by NYC-Ill
This book was very hard to follow. I could not tell when they move locations or introduce new characters or who the characters even were. They float in an out of extistence. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Sean Neilan
Read it if … you have a brief moment to contemplate narrative form and the meaning of human relationships. Read morePublished on June 25, 2014 by Jillian Igarashi
Tao Lin's voice in Shoplifting from American Apparel wouldn't let me put it down for the hour and a half to two hours it took to read. Read morePublished on November 8, 2013 by steve