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Shoplifting from American Apparel

Set mostly in Manhattan—although also featuring Atlantic City, Brooklyn, GMail Chat, and Gainsville, Florida—this autobiographical novella, spanning two years in the life of a young writer with a cultish following, has been described by the author as “A shoplifting book about vague relationships,” “2 parts shoplifting arrest, 5 parts vague relationship issues,” and “An ultimately life-affirming book about how the unidirectional nature of time renders everything beautiful and sad.”

From VIP rooms in “hip” New York City clubs to central booking in Chinatown, from New York University’s Bobst Library to a bus in someone’s backyard in a college-town in Florida, from Bret Easton Ellis to Lorrie Moore, and from Moby to Ghost Mice, it explores class, culture, and the arts in all their American forms through the funny, journalistic, and existentially-minded narrative of someone trying to both “not be a bad person” and “find some kind of happiness or something,” while he is driven by his failures and successes at managing his art, morals, finances, relationships, loneliness, confusion, boredom, future, and depression.

TAO LIN was born in 1983, and raised in Orlando, Florida. In 2007 Melville House published his first two works of fiction, the short story collection Bed, and the novelEeeee Eee Eeee, simultaneously. Lin quickly became an underground sensation with a huge cult following. In 2008, Lin published his poetry collection, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. It has been assigned as a text book in several college level psychology courses.

Michael Silverblatt interviews Tao Lin on KCRW’s Bookworm

“ 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

“ Very funny.” —USA Today’s ”Pop Candy”

“ 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…. By the end of this deliciously odd novella, Lin has achieved a fascinatingly consistent performance of the author as Bartleby, the famous scrivener in Melville’s short story whose response to everything is an anti-existentially heroic ’I would prefer not to’. The text is conscientiously scoured of narrative ‘purpose’, ‘characterisation’, and anything else that would smack of novelistic bullshit. What is left is an attitude, a mood, a comically despairing abandoning of literary ego.”—The Guardian

“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

“A hack Lin is not. Shoplifting is scathingly funny for being so spare… Amidst the barrage of tedious details and everyday occurrences, there are moments of beauty that one can miss without the expected flourish of adjectives to put blinking arrows around them that say ”important moment ahead….” Works likeShoplifting From American Apparel just might be the future of literature, with a style that’s wary of words’ ability to say more than intended. Best to keep it simple, leaving a 100-page slice of life cut with a very sharp and discerning blade – one that Lin wields well.”—The Austin Chronicle

“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

On Tao Lin and Douglas Copeland:
The Guardian Books Blog

“Camus’ The Stranger or ’sociopath’?”—Los Angeles Times

Chris Kenneally of Beyond the Book talks to Tao Lin’s publisher and editor Dennis Johnson in the leadup to Tao’s event at the Miami Book Fair.

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