Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tao's New Book

Tao Lin and Jack Morgan poetsTao Lin and me when he read in Berkeley

Tao Lin's new book is phenomenal. My favorite poem in it is the Ugly Fish Poem.
I wanted to be critical and say something negative, but I cannot think of anything negative to say about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, so I will say something negative about everyone who has a problem with Tao Lin.

A lot of people say a lot of things about Tao and his work. I just deleted a huge paragraph describing all the crap people say, but I figure if you want to know, you can run a search. The problem people have with Tao is really only that it appears that he might be having a good time. Much of his work has ostensibly to do with depression and loneliness, and some of it is "tongue-in-cheek" or "sarcastic" so that makes some people think it isn't "serious." Those people forget that, even though literature can often be depressing, it is only there to be enjoyed, sometimes because it is depressing.

Tao is not pretending. The people who act serious all the time are the people who are really pretending. Think about who we call pretentious. If Tao pretended to be serious all the time, he would be accepted more by the "industry" and the "main stream" but as it stands, he has a huge fan base of readers who are sick of disingenuous, stodgy writers. When you read Tao's work, you're having fun, and you get the feeling that maybe, maybe, maybe he's having fun, too. That's a hard connection to get in literature. And many pseudo-intellectuals, the ones who usually have the loudest voices, think that real intellectuals aren't allowed to have fun.

The other reason that idiots hate Tao Lin is that he is the closest thing we have nowadays to a literary prodigy. Prodigies are extremely rare in literature. We love them and we hate them. They make every writer feel lazy and slow. Most writers don't get to writing good stuff until they're older. The young ones are exciting and inspire pangs of jealousy. Basically, if you write a good novel or book of poetry before you're thirty and get it published and get people to read it and like it, you're a prodigy. Tao has two books of poetry, both of which are good, the second of which is genius; he has a good novel out; he has a fantastic book of short stories; he's 25. Doesn't that piss you off? Me too, a little. But to bash him for it is stupid.

Another pitfall of considering the author while reading.

You should never know anything about the author, or you should pretend like you know nothing about the author while reading his work. That is the only smart way to read. I try to forget that I like Tao Lin and count him as a friend when I read his work. When I read his work I am looking for things to hate and be critical about. With Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, I can't find anything not to love.

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Sorry for Snake 4 will be coming out this weekend. It's going to be great.
We are going to offer subscriptions. And there is also a contest for free issues thanks to Idiolexicon.
More details on that this Friday.

5 comments:

Olalekan said...

I don't hate Tao Lin. But who thinks serious writers can't be playful? Every writer of serious literature, or philosophy I can think of was really playful, sometimes at least. Dostoevsky was really grave and "depressing" but The Possessed is one of the funniest novels i've ever read, Dostoevsky is in "the canon" right, and than there's Ellison, all the "existential" writers,jesus, modernists, Shakespeare, and many many more "canonized" writers and thinkers that were extremely playful, funny, ironic, sarcastic, sardonic, and serious. I don't know of any "canonized" writers that weren't regularly funny, so the people that are tired of stodgy writers probably aren't looking for stuff in the right places, or at all.

Jack Morgan said...

I think you're right, but the people I am talking about are academics and pseudo-intellectuals. They are very loud and forget much of what you just wrote in your comment.
Also, all of the people you mentioned in all of those movements got a lot of bull shit criticism. People are still saying Shakespeare didn't write his plays. The New Yorker brought up that old question only a few weeks ago. Every movement gets shit on regularly. Modernists get made fun of. I heard Ferlinghetti trash language poets. Some people still hate Kerouac for not having a "real" job.

savage pig barn said...

what about academics who have fun?
ps pray for the troops

Jack Morgan said...

I'll promise to pray if you'll promise to have fun.

ally said...

What about the New York School poets like John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch? What about Dean Young? What about Bernadette Mayer?

Not all academic literature is serious, and not all of it should be considered serious because it has a little bit of linguistic complexity. That's at the heart of my complaint about Tao Lin--his ideas are there, but the complexity is not. At least, as a poet, I feel as though it differs from philosophy so that it can push at syntactical boundaries, otherwise why not write a philosophical discourse? Why not write fiction?

To me it seems like Tao Lin's fans think he's not pretending because he publishes his journal with line breaks. Yet somehow I feel people will consider my opinion ignorant.