Tao Lin

Tao Lin

Photo of Tao Lin

Tao Lin in Japan, 2010
Born (1983-07-02) July 2, 1983
Alexandria, Virginia
Occupation Novelist, poet
Nationality United States
Genre Literary fiction, poetry, Kmart realism
Notable works Taipei, Bed, Richard Yates, Shoplifting from American Apparel
Spouse Megan Boyle (separated)

Tao Lin (simplified Chinese: 林韬; traditional Chinese: 林韜; pinyin: Lín Tāo; born July 2, 1983) is an American novelist, poet, essayist, short-story writer, and artist. He has published three novels, two books of poetry, one short story collection, and one novella in print as well as an extensive assortment of online content. His third novel, Taipei, was published by Vintage on June 4, 2013.[1]

In November 2008 Lin founded Muumuu House, an independent publishing house, and in 2010 he co-founded MDMAfilms, an independent film production company.[2][3]

Personal life

Tao Lin was born to Taiwanese parents and lives in New York City. He graduated from New York University in 2005 with a B.A. in journalism.[4] He has lectured on his writing and art at Vassar, Kansas City Art Institute, Columbia College, UNC Chapel Hill, and other universities and museums, including The Museum of Modern Art and The New Museum. In 2012 and in 2015 he taught a graduate course at Sarah Lawrence College called "The Contemporary Short Story."[5]

Lin has one brother who also lives in New York; their father is a retired physics professor[6][7] who is the inventor of the flying-spot LASIK, a laser procedure for vision correction (US pat. #5520679, 1991).[8]

Critical response

Lin's writing has attracted both negative and positive attention from various publications. Gawker once referred to him as "maybe perhaps the single most irritating person we've ever had to deal with",[9] though he was later "pardoned". After reading this criticism, however, Lin retaliated by completely covering the front door of the Gawker office building with stickers bearing Britney Spears's name.[10] Later, Gawker published a piece Lin had written.[11] L Magazine said, "We've long been deeply irked by Lin's vacuous posturing and 'I know you are but what am I' dorm-room philosophizing..."[12] Sam Anderson, in New York Magazine, wrote, "Dismissing Lin, however, ignores the fact that he is deeply smart, funny, and head-over-heels dedicated in exactly the way we like our young artists to be."[13] Miranda July has praised his work as "moving and necessary."[14]

An article in The Atlantic described Lin as having a "fairly staggering" knack for self-promotion. The same article said "there's something unusual about a writer being so transparent, so ready to tell you every insignificant detail of a seemingly eventful day, so aware of his next novel's word count, yet also remaining so opaque, mysterious "inscrutable.""[15]

Lin's work has increasingly been praised in the UK, including positive reviews from The Guardian[16][17] and Times Literary Supplement, who, reviewing[18] Taipei in 2013, said Lin was "a daring, urgent voice for a malfunctioning age," and a 2010 career overview from London Review of Books.[19]


you are a little bit happier than i am (2006)

In November 2006 Lin's first book, a poetry collection titled you are a little bit happier than i am, was published. It was the winner of Action Books' December Prize and has been a small-press bestseller.[20][21]

Eeeee Eee Eeee & Bed (2007)

In May 2007 Lin's first novel, Eeeee Eee Eeee, and first story collection, Bed, were published simultaneously. Of the stories, Jennifer Bassett, writing in KGB Lit Journal, said: "In structure and tone, they have the feel of early Lorrie Moore and Deborah Eisenberg. Like Moore's characters, there are a lot of plays on language and within each story, a return to the same images or ideas — or jokes. And like Moore, most of these characters live in New York, are unemployed or recently employed, and are originally from somewhere more provincial (Florida in Lin's case, Wisconsin in Moore's). However, Lin knows to dig a little deeper into his characters—something we see in Moore's later stories, but less so in her early ones."[22]

They were ignored by most mainstream media but have since been referenced in The Independent (who called Eeeee Eee Eeee "a wonderfully deadpan joke"[23]) and The New York Times who called Lin a "deadpan literary trickster"[24] in reference to Eeeee Eee Eeee.

cognitive-behavioral therapy (2008)

In May 2008 Lin's second poetry collection, cognitive-behavioral therapy was published.[25]

The poem "room night" from this collection was anthologized in Wave Books' State of the Union.[26] A French translation was published by Au Diable Vauvert[27] in 2012.

Shoplifting from American Apparel (2009)

In September 2009 Lin's novella, Shoplifting from American Apparel, was published to mixed reviews. The Guardian said, "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."[28] The Village Voice called it a "fragile, elusive book."[29] Bookslut said, "it shares an affected childishness with bands like The Moldy Peaches and it has a put-on weirdness reminiscent of Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You."[30] Time Out New York said, "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."[31] San Francisco Chronicle said, “Tao Lin's sly, forlorn, deadpan humor jumps off the page [...] will delight fans of everyone from Mark Twain to Michelle Tea.”[32] Los Angeles Times said, "Camus' The Stranger or sociopath?"[33] while Austin Chronicle called it "scathingly funny" and said that "it might just be the future of literature."[34] Another reviewer described it as "a vehicle...for self-promotion."[35]

In an interview aired December 2009 with Michael Silverblatt on KCRW's Bookworm Silverblatt called the novella "the purest example so far of the minimalist aesthetic as it used to be enunciated"[36] and Lin described the novella's style as deliberately "concrete, with all the focus on surface details, with no sentences devoted to thoughts or feelings, and I think that results in a kind of themelessness, that, in its lack of focus on anything else, the theme becomes, to me, the passage of time."[36]

In December 2009 clothing retailer Urban Outfitters began selling Shoplifting from American Apparel in its stores.[37]

Richard Yates (2010)

Published September 7, 2010, by Melville House,[38] Richard Yates is Lin's second novel.

In a book review in The New York Times, Charles Bock described the book as "more interesting as a concept than as an actual narrative", adding, "By the time I reached the last 50 pages, each time the characters said they wanted to kill themselves, I knew exactly how they felt."[39]

Taipei (2013)

On February 23, 2013, Publishers Weekly awarded Taipei a starred review, predicting it would be Lin's "breakout" book and describing it as "a novel about disaffection that's oddly affecting" and "a book without an ounce of self-pity, melodrama, or posturing."[40] The same month, Bret Easton Ellis tweeted, "With Taipei Tao Lin becomes the most interesting prose stylist of his generation, which doesn't mean that Taipei isn't a boring novel..."[41]

Taipei was published by Vintage on June 4, 2013, to mostly positive reviews. Novelist Benjamin Lytal, writing in the New York Observer, called it Lin's "modernist masterpiece,"[42] adding, "[W]e should stop calling Tao Lin the voice of his generation. Taipei, his new novel, has less to do with his generation than with the literary tradition of Knut Hamsun, Ernest Hemingway, and Robert Musil." According to Slate, "Taipei casts a surprisingly introspective eye on the spare, 21st-century landscape Lin has such a knack for depicting."[43]

New York Times critic Dwight Garner wrote, "I loathe reviews in which a critic claims to have love-hate feelings about a work of art. It’s a way of having no opinion at all. But I love and hate Taipei."[44]

On June 18, writing for The Daily Beast, critic Emily Witt said in a highly positive review:[45]

Taipei is exactly the kind of book I hoped Tao Lin would one day write. He is one of the few fiction writers around who engages with contemporary life, rather than treating his writing online as existing in opposition to or apart from the hallowed analog space of the novel. He’s consistently good for a few laughs and writes in a singular style already much imitated by his many sycophants on the Internet. Some people like Tao Lin for solely these reasons, or treat him as a sort of novelty or joke. But Lin can also produce the feelings of existential wonder that all good novelists provoke. His writing reveals the hyperbole in conversational language that we use, it seems, to make up for living lives where equanimity and well-adjustment are the most valued attributes, where human emotions are pathologized into illness: we do not fall in love, we become “obsessed”; we do not dislike, we “hate”. We manipulate ourselves chemically to avoid acting “crazy.”

On June 30, in The New York Times Book Review, Clancy Martin wrote:

His writing is weird, upsetting, memorable, honest — and it’s only getting better [...] But I didn’t anticipate Taipei, his latest, which is, to put it bluntly, a gigantic leap forward. Here we have a serious, first-rate novelist putting all his skills to work. Taipei is a love story, and although it’s Lin’s third novel it’s also, in a sense, a classic first novel: it’s semi-autobiographical (Lin has described it as the distillation of 25,000 pages of memory) and it’s a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story about a young man who learns, through love, that life is larger than he thought it was.

On July 5 The New York Times Book Review awarded Taipei an Editors' Choice[46] distinction. It was the only paperback on the list for the week.

On KCRW's "Bookworm", in a conversation with Lin,[47] Michael Silverblatt called it "The most moving depiction of the way we live now," saying that it was "unbearably moving."

ITaipei was included on best book of the year lists by Times Literary Supplement,[48] Village Voice,[49] Slate,[50] Salon, Bookforum,[51] The Week, Maisonneuve,[52] and Complex,[53] among others.

A film version of Taipei by director Jason Lester is to be released in 2017.

Selected Tweets (2015)

On June 15, 2015, Short Flight/Long Drive Books published a collaborative double-book called Selected Tweets by Lin and poet Mira Gonzalez. The book features selections from eight years of their tweets at nine different Twitter accounts, as well as visual art by each author, footnotes, and "Extras". Emma Kolchin-Miller, writing in the Columbia Spectator, described the book as "[featuring] a selection of bleak, depressed, disturbing, funny, and personal tweets that create a fragmented narrative and show how Twitter can serve as a platform for art, storytelling, and connection."[54] Andrea Longini, writing for Electric Literature, opined: "Although Twitter in name implies a kind of chatter or 'twittering,' Tao Lin and Mira Gonzalez have elevated the medium into an art form with the power to transmit authentic observations." [55]


Lin co-founded, with Megan Boyle, the film company MDMAfilms in late 2010.[56] So far the company has released three films, all recorded solely with the iSight camera of a Macbook: MDMA, Bebe Zeva, and Mumblecore.[57] There is a projected fourth film, World of Warcraft, which has been "delayed."[58]

On July 1, 2015 the full movie Mumblecore was posted online.[59]


Tao Lin has released a series of podcasts on Soundcloud, including 2016's Two Hour Podcast About My Writing in which, he writes, "I talk about my own writing for 2 hours nonstop."[60]

Statutory rape allegations

In October 2014, Lin was accused by E. R. Kennedy of having statutorily raped Kennedy in 2006, when Kennedy was 16 and Lin was 22. Kennedy, a trans man, also accused Lin of instances of emotional abuse, and claimed that Lin based passages in Richard Yates on personal email correspondence between the two.

Lin posted a statement on Facebook addressing Kennedy's accusations. He agreed that he had sex with Kennedy, with whom he was in a long-term relationship, but said that it was "not statutory rape, let alone rape" (as Jezebel had originally reported before correcting the article), and said he had Kennedy's permission to use their correspondence.[61][62][63] After their relationship ended, Kennedy and Lin remained friends, collaborating on an ebook, hikikomori, in 2007.[64] In 2009 Lin published Kennedy's poetry collection sometimes my heart pushes my ribs.[65]

After the allegations were made, Kennedy asked Jezebel to take down an article about them, saying that only he and Lin had "the expertise to talk about our relationship" and "i shouldn't have started this im trying to recover from a hospitalization".[66] Jezebel ignored the request.




  1. Taipei. Vintage. June 4, 2013. ISBN 0307950174.
  2. Tao Lin Now Selling Videos of Himself on Ecstasy to Pay the Rent: An Interview with MDMAfilms, L Magazine
  3. Small Press Points, Poets & Writers
  4. Roy, Jessica. "NYU Alum and Poet Tao Lin Doesn't Care Whether or Not You Think Print Is Dead". NYU Local.
  5. "The Contemporary Short Story". Slc.edu. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  6. Lin, Tao (2013-09-21). "When I Moved Online". The New York Times.
  7. "Tao Lin by David Shapiro Jr.".
  8. "Ophthalmic surgery method using non-contact scanning laser". ARCHPATENT.
  9. Gould, Emily (2007-07-27). "Now We Also Hate Miranda July". Gawker. Retrieved 2009-03-13.
  10. Gould, Emily (2007-12-04). "Pardons". Gawker. Retrieved 2009-03-12.
  11. "An Account of Being Arrested for 'Trespassing' NYU's Bookstore". Gawker.com. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  12. Kyzer, Larissa. "The Best of NYC LETTERS | Books | The L Magazine - New York City's Local Event and Arts & Culture Guide". The L Magazine. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  13. Anderson, Sam (2009-01-11). "Tao Lin, Lit Boy - The All New Issue - New York Magazine". Nymag.com. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  14. "Shoplifting From American Apparell". Melville House.
  15. Hua Hsu. "Terminal Boredom: Reading Tao Lin" retrieved August 25, 2010 from www.atlantic.com.
  16. Poole, Steven (2009-11-14). "Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin – Book review". The Guardian. London.
  17. Lezard, Nicholas (2010-11-13). "Richard Yates by Tao Lin – review". The Guardian. London.
  18. "Article". The Times Literary Supplement. Retrieved 2014-04-06. (subscription required (help)).
  19. Haglund, David (October 21, 2010). "A Kind of Gnawing Offness". London Review of Books. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
  20. "Poetry Bestsellers July Aug 2008 : Small Press Distribution". Spdbooks.org. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  21. "Poetry Bestsellers September 2007 : Small Press Distribution". Spdbooks.org. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  22. "Tao Lin's BED and EEEEE EEE EEEE". KGB Bar & Lit Journal. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  23. Thorne, Matt (2010-06-04). "Beatrice and Virgil, By Yann Martel". The Independent. London.
  24. Vizzini, Ned (2010-05-06). "Bridge Between Generations". The New York Times.
  25. "Melville House Publishing | Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy". Mhpbooks.com. Retrieved 2014-04-29.
  26. "State of the Union | Wave Books". Wavepoetry.com. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  27. Poole, Steven (2009-11-14). "Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  28. Ben Beitler (2009-09-08). "Tao Lin's Five-Finger Discount - Page 1 - Books - New York". Village Voice. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  29. Kati Nolfi. "Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin". Bookslut. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  30. "Tao Lin - Shoplifting from American Apparel - Book review - Time Out New York". Newyork.timeout.com. Archived from the original on July 26, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  31. Messer, Ari (2009-10-01). "Tao Lin: 'Shoplifting from American Apparel'". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  32. "Discoveries: 'Shoplifting From American Apparel'". Los Angeles Times. 2009-09-27. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  33. "Austin Books: Review - Shoplifting From American Apparel". AustinChronicle.com. 2009-10-09. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  34. Nolfi, Katie (December 6, 2009). "Review a Day: Shoplifting from American Apparel". Powell's Books. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
  35. 1 2 "Bookworm: Tao Lin". KCRW. December 3, 2009. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
  36. Schmidt, Mackenzie (2009-12-16). "Urban Outfitters Is Actually Selling Tao Lin's Novella Shoplifting at American Apparel - New York News - Runnin' Scared". Blogs.villagevoice.com. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  37. Roy, Jessica (2009-09-25). "NYU Alum and Poet Tao Lin Doesn't Care Whether or Not You Think Print Is Dead". NYU Local. Retrieved 2009-03-13.
  38. Charles Bock (September 24, 2010). "Book Review - Richard Yates - By Tao Lin - NYTimes.com". nytimes.com. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  39. "Fiction Review: Taipei by Tao Lin. Vintage, $14.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-307-95017-8". Publishersweekly.com. 2013-02-25. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  40. Easton Ellis, Brett. "With "Taipei" Tao Lin becomes the most interesting prose stylist of his generation, which doesn't mean that "Taipei" isn't a boring novel...". Twitter. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  41. Lytal, Benjamin (2013-06-05). "Gchat Is a Noble Pursuit: Tao Lin's Modernist Masterpiece". Observer. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  42. Leung, Chuck (2013-06-07). "Tao Lin's Taipei reviewed: techy, drug-fueled, existential fiction. - Slate Magazine". Slate.com. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  43. Garner, Dwight (2013-06-04). "'Taipei,' by Tao Lin". The New York Times.
  44. Emily Witt (2013-06-18). "The Gpistolary Novel: Tao Lin's "Taipei"". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  45. "Editors' Choice". The New York Times. 2013-07-05.
  46. "Tao Lin: Taipei - Bookworm on KCRW 89.9 FM". Kcrw.com. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  47. "Books of the Year". The Times Literary Supplement. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  48. "Our Favorite Books of 2013 - - Books - New York". Village Voice. 2013-12-18. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  49. Staff, Slate (2013-11-30). "Slate staff picks for best books of 2013". Slate.com. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  50. Christian Lorentzen (2013-12-19). "the best novels of 2013". Bookforum.com. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  51. Butler, Blake (2013-12-11). "All the Books I Read in 2013 | VICE Canada". Vice.com. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  52. "Taipei — The Best Books of 2013". Complex. 2013-12-16. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  53. "Tao Lin, Mira Gonzalez to release 'Selected Tweets' on June 15". Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  54. "Telegraphing Coherence: Selected Tweets by Mira Gonzalez and Tao Lin". Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  55. Tao Lin Now Selling Videos of Himself on Ecstasy to Pay the Rent: An Interview with MDMA Films, L Magazine
  56. Drugs, Meet Movies: Tao Lin and Megan Boyle's MDMAfilms, Indiewire
  57. "MDMAfilms". Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  58. "Tao Lin". Twitter. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  59. https://soundcloud.com/taolin/two-hour-podcast-about-my-writing-1
  60. Allie Jones. "Alt-Lit Icon Accused of Statutory Rape as Hipster Scene Falls Apart". Gawker. Gawker Media. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  61. "It Doesn't Have to Be Rape to Suck". The Cut. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  62. Dazed. "Tao Lin accused of statutory rape and emotional abuse". Dazed. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  63. "HIKIKOMORI by ellen kennedy and tao lin". Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  64. "Amazon.com: Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs (9780982206706): Ellen Kennedy: Books". Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  65. "tao_lin3". Twitter. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
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