TAIPEI by Tao Lin


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Lin (Richard Yates, 2010, etc.) focuses on the lives of post-post-modern Gen Y artists in his third novel.

No action-adventure herein. Think internal dialogue. Think angst-filled, uber-jaundiced existentialism. A hundred pages in, protagonist Paul is still prowling Brooklyn parties and bars. He's made a quick trip home to Taiwan, but little happened there either. Back in the borough, Paul has moved from one maybe-a-girlfriend to another, met dealer friends who trade in recreational pharmaceuticals—Xanax, Adderall, cocaine, 'shrooms and MDMA—and ruminated a bit about his novel, soon to be released. The narrative drones along with flat affect, thoroughly reportorial in style, right down to the quirky introductions of characters with a newspaper-style name/age format: "When Paul woke, the next afternoon, Laura, 28, had already friended and messaged him on Facebook." And so it goes, artistic Weltschmerz profundity. Paul is intelligent; his IQ is "either 139 or 154." He invites friends to watch Trash Humpers, uses a MacBook and iPhone, and his life is rendered with a fondness for commas. "When Gabby finally looked at him, seeming more confused than agitated, Paul sarcastically sustained a huge grin, which Gabby stared at blankly while appearing to be thinking, very slowly, due to alcohol, about what, if anything, she should do about what was happening." There begins a book tour (mind-altering drugs fueling readings), perhaps best characterized as a geographical relocation of the same hipster existentialist remove from all but what happens between Paul’s ears, the exception being his companion, Erin, a young Baltimore woman he meets via the Internet, whom he marries in a nothing-better-to-do Las Vegas decision. Post-Taipei honeymoon, with Erin bouncing between Baltimore and Brooklyn, the marriage seems off-again, on-again, spiced by avant-garde MacBook-filmed self-documentaries and drug-addled conversations and text messaging both childish and surreal.

Very much au courant, a meditation on "the nonexistent somethingness that was currently life."


Pub Date: June 4th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-307-95017-8
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Vintage
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2013


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