Richard Yates: A Novel Paperback – Sep 7 2010
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“[G]enuinely funny...accurate, often filthy dispatches on what it is to be young and pushing against the world.”
—Charles Bock, The New York Times
"Lin captures certain qualities of contemporary life better than many writers in part because he dispenses with so much that is expected of current fiction."
—David Haglund, The London Review of Books
“Richard Yates is neither pretentious nor sneering nor reflexively hip. It is simply a focused, moving, and rather upsetting portrait of two oddballs in love.”
—Danielle Dreillinger, The Boston Globe
"[A] batty and precisely penned novel....[Tao Lin] has, in methodically stacked increments, become a legitimate writing presence."
—Carrie Battan, The Boston Phoenix
"[Lin's] lean and often maniacal sentences propel the work forward with a slanted momentum. What first seems like a stock tale of romance gone sour evolves into a parable about the fickleness of human desire and the futility of detachment when it comes to love."
—Time Out New York
“Richard Yates is a moving, very funny, discomforting, and heartbreakingly life-affirming meditation on extremes—extreme alienation, extreme intimacy, extreme confusion, extreme expectations—that reads like a meticulously and lovingly crafted collaboration between a weirder Ernest Hemingway and a more philosophically-minded Jean Rhys.”
—James Frey, author of Bright Shiny Morning and A Million Little Pieces
“Richard Yates is hilarious, menacing, and hugely intelligent. Tao Lin is a Kafka for the iPhone generation. He has that most important gift: it’s impossible to imagine anyone else writing like he does and sounding authentic. Yet he has already spawned a huge school of Lin imitators. As precocious and prolific as he is, every book surpasses the last. Tao Lin may well be the most important writer under thirty working today.”
—Clancy Martin, author of How To Sell
“[Richard Yates] is like a ninety-foot pigeon. You’ve never seen anything like it before, and yet it is somehow exactly like the world we live in.”
—Daniel Handler, author of Adverbs
“It would be easy to say that Richard Yates is Tao Lin’s best book yet. Others have said it. Plainly, however, it’s not—Richard Yates only proves that Tao’s work, as it should, undoes any pretensions to ‘best’ or ‘worst.’”
“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
“Do you read Tao Lin and think ‘I love this! What is it?’ Perhaps it is the curious effect of a radically talented, fecund and tender mind setting down a world sans sense or consequence.”
—Lore Segal, author of the Pulitzer-Prize nominated Shakespeare’s Kitchen
“Fascinating and articulate in a way that people my age (incl. um, like, you know, myself) rarely are.”
—Emily Gould, author of And The Heart Says Whatever
“Prodigal, unpredictable...impossible to ignore.”
“A master of understatement–or, rather, of statement.”
“A deadpan literary trickster.”
—The New York Times
“Lin’s fiction is a wonderfully deadpan joke.”
“Deeply smart, funny, and heads-over-heels dedicated.”
—Sam Anderson, New York Magazine
“[A] parable about the fickleness of human desire and the futility of detachment when it comes to love.”
—Time Out New York
“Lin’s sympathetic fascination with the meaning of life is full of profound and often hilarious insights.”
“Meet literature's Net-savvy new star.”
"There is danger and sadness in his work, but not defeat."
—Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
About the Author
Tao Lin is the author of the novels Richard Yates and Eeeee Eee Eeee, the novella Shoplifting from American Apparel, the story collection Bed, and the poetry collections cognitive-behavioral therapy and you are a little bit happier than i am. Translations of his books have been published around the world, including in France, Germany, Spain, Japan, Norway, Serbia, South Korea, China, and Taiwan. He lives in Manhattan.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
The content made me feel, at first, shame and resentment for my own teenage mistakes. I also felt uneasy and inadequate that I didn't find it as humorous as other people did. So, at first, I felt negatively towards `Richard Yates,' as it made me feel poorly.
I didn't want my initial reaction and past experiences to shape my opinion of the book. After a week's worth of thought, I realized that I had received exactly what I wanted from `Richard Yates;' a literal retelling of events from a narrator unmotivated and unconcerned with my or anyone else's opinion of them. Behind the seemingly fake method of building a familiar brand is a product that is unusually authentic. It is likeable at times and unlikable other times. The book satisfied my curiosity about the author's life. This thought made me feel calm about the book. Things that I perceive to be authentic make me feel good about society and culture. I feel good. Thank you for `Richard Yates.'
Richard Yates by Tao Lin is about Haley Joel Osment and Dakota Fanning (not the real ones), an older hipster-type guy and a young teenage girl with some self esteem issues. They meet on the internet and start a relationship. This causes many problems in both of their lives.
The best thing about this novel is also the worst thing: it perfectly captures the current generation (my own).
But when I say that, I don't mean it like The Great Gatsby perfectly capturing the Roaring 20's. Because when Gatsby did it, it took the corrupted morals and ideas of a party-oriented society and used it as a springboard to discuss the morals and ideas of everyone, everywhere, at anytime.
Richard Yates does a really good job in creating two characters who represent the Millenials. They are self-centered, loathing, and outsider-type individuals. They fit the "hipster" bill perfectly, eating only organic and steamed lentils and raw diets and vegetarianism. But underneath the callous exterior lies uncertainty. There is a certain poetry about today's generation that is misunderstood by everyone else. Except Lin. He manages to capture it without a misstep.
But if you're an older person reading this, you might roll your eyes and shrug off my description of my generation. And that's okay, I don't blame you. The opinion is subjective and lopsided and totally biased to me, because I like to glorify my generation. And Tao Lin does, too. So chances are, if you are over the age of 26, you probably won't like this book.
There are definitely a few unexpected twists and turns among the plot. I do appreciate those. But ultimately, the story line is boring and dry.
The Writing style also leaves a lot to be desired. It's supposed to be ultra-minimalism at its finest, and instead it comes off as shallow and lacking imagination. Everything falls into a "subject-verb-object" type sentence without much variation. And that would be fine if it was pretty and beautiful, but its oftentimes ugly and not entertaining to read. Sometimes, you have to force yourself to re-read or keep reading, because the text can be hard to swallow.
On the back of the book, a question is posed " What constitutes illicit sex for a generation with no rules?" This question isn't fully answered, and neither is much else in this book. I'd *maybe* rent this from the library if I got the chance, otherwise, I wouldn't go crazy having not read it.
It's a demonstration of understanding that such things need no embellishment; that the voids, absences and repellently-common weaknesses within everyday individuals are as meaningful when explored plainly as the most vaunted and decorous conflicts in far more elaborate literature.
Yes, Lin writes primarily from and for a generation accustomed to communicating in literal, digitally-enabled prose lines. Yet in applying such a cultural norm to his own work, he illuminates without any special effort the unique and nakedly-honest troughs in the hearts of the millennial young.
Further, with the sort of efficacy that must only come from deeply personal observation, Lin applies himself to far more complex monsters, such as casual kleptomania or unexamined impulse behavior. Most prominently, his fashion of prose bluntly unveils the germination of a severe eating disorder in a teenage girl, in what may be the most faithful and effective rendition of such a condition in literature to date.
At the same time, there is nothing insular about 'Richard Yates'. While being a missive from and for a generation whose two worst fears are to be alone and to be mundane, in that order, there is a timelessness about the relationship portrayed in the book -- a tragedy of two who seek completion and approval from one another so greatly it devours and starves their ability to love one another. Alternately, it explores the great frequency with which dysfunction is often mistaken for (or interchangeable with) love in the modern era.
Much public assessment of 'Richard Yates' has unfortunately hinged on the age gap between the protagonists, one that has actually become much less shocking and far more commonplace among the twenty-somethings of today. Like Nabokov's classic Lolita, the book's primary merit lies in the poignant and thought-provoking interactions between two wildly dysfunctional and distasteful individuals; this is an end toward which taboo (if any) is simply a vehicle, not an end in itself.
Lin is frequently dismissed by many in their eagerness to vent resentment for feeling excluded from or irrelevant alongside a certain subset of internet-savvy individuals. The fashion of delivery would be relevant even in a vacuum. You should just buy the book, discard, if possible, any prejudgments, and appreciate it on its multiple levels.
Tao Lin takes the emotional risks of Lorrie Moore -- his writing is sharply intuitive, is brimming with melancholy insight into the dangers and joy of love and thereby heartbreaking. He is willing to expose complicated emotional truths that aren't easily summarized. The book made me feel reflective about how I acted in relationships, definitely -- and how I do act in relationships. It made me question my own ideas about happiness. He also takes the stylistic risks of such authors as Samuel Beckett and James Joyce, using both content and form to convey his complex ideas. This is not to say that Tao Lin writes books like, say, Finnegan's wake. This book was definitely what I'd call a page turner. But it's a different kind of reading experience than most contemporary fiction -- it is unfiltered, raw, unconcerned with being profound, coming from a place of what seems like both raw hurt and intellect. Richard Yates is both sentimental and pretentious, a romance and a novel of ideas -- and yet it's a very concrete book. There is, of course, shoplifting, sex, bulimia, ebay, email, gmail chat. It is a novel about now, relationships now. This relationship, between a recent college graduate and a 16-17 year old girl with bulimia is tragic and beautiful. They try and fail and try and fail to redeem themselves and each other. We see hopes rise and fall. We read their email.
I think Tao Lin is an unflinching realist with a clear philosophical vision. He relentlessly presents readers with his vision (with what I understand are autobiographical writings) without slick narration and platitudes (or even figurative verbs) to soften the blow between the reader and the story. The result for the reader is being a bit disoriented and then that you really feel for the characters -- you do not have the safety of identifying with the narrator. It's an incredibly affecting experience and I believe this is his best book yet.