Two weekends ago, Tao Lin, a writer/poet/artist whose knack for self promotion is fairly staggering, published a lengthy account of being arrested for trespassing. The piece gives you a good sense of Lin's writerly persona—his prose is placid, spare, vaguely hypnotic, "possibly" "ironic," and he's faintly self-obsessed but in a harmless, almost banal way. The backstory (it helps to know that his last novella (which I'd recommend) was titled Shoplifting from American Apparel...):
March 2008 I was banned from NYU stores when I was arrested for unsuccessfully shoplifting [something like "Sony 'in-ear' earphones"] from NYU's computer store. June 2010 NYU's bookstore moved to a space on Broadway & Waverly that included a Think Coffee. One night I said "I'm banned from all NYU stores, I think, but I'm banned from Whole Foods and American Apparel and I've been in those places like 500 times" to someone.
Lin's account was published on Gawker, which is a funny about-face given the site's contentious relationship with him. He's sticker-bombed their front door and irritated them silly by cramming their inbox "full" of random gags and musings—he's possibly the least-famous person ever to earn so much scorn from the scornful/oft-scorned site. Was he seeking fame or just playing Gawker's ironic fame/trend-watching game in the most literal, committed way possible? Eventually, he received a Gawker pardon, which feels like an admission that even they cant stop him, whatever it is he's trying to do (similar, in a way, to this).
Why is Lin so polarizing? The comments that follow the Gawker "piece" are generally annoyed or sarcastically dismissive, which is expected given how long and gossip/link-free it is. But is Lin's writing, as the detractors say, truly narcissistic or selfish? What does it mean to be narcissistic enough to be branded a narcissist, when we are all in the business of cultivating online followers and friends, issuing steady streams of news releases about our wavering moods? There's something refreshing to me about Lin's writing, the way it manages to be wholly about him, but deny our craving for interiority or motive.