You might have issues with Tao Lin, and I certainly wouldn't blame you. He's one of those figures about whom many smart, thinking people feel they must have an opinion, kind of like Inception or the Arcade Fire, only with Lin, there is the sense that there is no ultimate "point" and we merely flatter him by wasting our time. Lin's anticipated new novel, Richard Yates, just came out, and any suspicion that this cusp-of-stardom/culmination-of-publicity-stunts moment has transformed him into a "serious artist" is dispelled in the first few paragraphs, as the reader follows an apparent gchat conversation between Dakota Fanning and Haley Joel Osment.
Still, Lin makes a great subject for sharp critics. I enjoyed the open-minded rigor and granular, let's-look-at-this-sentence analysis of Zach Baron's review for the Village Voice—a la Lin's noncommittal way, Baron concludes that it "kind of 'bums' us out." In Bookforum, Joshua Cohen expresses something far beyond mere bummed-out disappointment, pointing to Lin's innate "conservatism" and wondering what it means that Lin and a typically enthused, Lin-boosting blog commenter have essentially interchangeable styles. What's especially cutting, though, is Cohen's aping of Lin's style in the review's first few paragraphs:
I told him that I'd have to write the review in his style, then—submit it for publication and later, when the review came out, claim publicly that Lin wrote it for me. I'd have to write directly but without adverbs, without (illuminating or useful) adjectives. I would have to use regular language, few commas, and no semicolons; when I wrote something particularly hackneyed I'd have to put it between quotation marks. This would all be "work."
The Observer was sitting at his desk. It was Friday at 1:03 p.m. His Gmail was open, and the inbox showed a new message from Tao Lin. The subject of the message was "just confirming, 630pm five leaves."
The Observer replied, "Yes, and the assignment is fully confirmed. The profile of you will run in the Observer issue of August 18."
Tao Lin replied, "Sweet. Thank you."
A few minutes later, The Observer decided to write his profile of Tao Lin in Tao Lin's style. An editor came up to The Observer's desk to check on his work. The Observer told him there was no problem with his work. The editor seemed relieved.
Or was the "editor" "relieved?"