March 19th, 2010 / 2:10 pm
Random

A. Pope, Tao Lin, and HTML Giant walk into a bar…

This past week, there have been several blogs (plus the mention in the New Yorker) about Tao Lin and the reviews lodged for and against him. To be fair, I haven’t read much of Tao’s work, but I am entrenched in the pure spectacle of “Tao Lin.” Mostly out of boredom but partly because I can’t get away from it, even if I wanted to.

But consider this, in his Author’s Preface, Alexander Pope argues, “Poetry and criticism [are] by no means the universal concern of the world, but only the affair of idle men who write in their closets, and of idle men who read there.” So I’m back to the question of boredom. Why do we care who says what about Tao? And here, just look back at the comment streams about Tao. People seem to do more than simply “care.” They’re invested! I barely have time to care about the reviews written about my friends, much less any other contemporary. I have no desire to be an idle man writing in my closet, nor an idle man reading there.

It doesn’t matter much to me whether or not Tao (or any other writer, for that matter) cultivates this particular brand of hype. My concern has to do with the unabashed responses that indicate how very right Pope is. Even this post reinforces Pope’s argument that I’m simply an idle man—or woman in this case—reading in a closet.

Later, Pope writes, “I was never so concerned about my works as to vindicate them in print; believing, if anything was good, it would defend itself, and what was bad could never be defended. I used no artifice to raise or continue a reputation, depreciated no dead author I was obliged to, bribed no living one with unjust praise, insulted no adversary with ill language; or, when I could not attack a rival’s works, encouraged reports against his morals.” I’ve said and written some stupid things. Let them be what they are. Stupidity should not be defended. Bad writing should not be defended. Good writing can defend itself. But what’s happened here over this past week seems to have little to do with writing and everything do with the writer, and arguably, it doesn’t even have to do with the writer but the image the writer has created for himself. This, to me, is disgusting. I could care less about what your thoughts on Tao Lin the spectacle are. If his writing is bad, let the reviews say it, but if it’s defendable, let’s not get caught in the closets of the internet.

In the end, this isn’t about Tao. I have no investment in the guy. I don’t know him. I haven’t read his books. I do, however, care about the evident boredom people display in their comments about him. Why do you care? Furthermore, why the fuck do I care that you care? Aren’t there fundamentally more interesting and worthwhile things to discuss?

So, I’ll end with Pope, once more, who says about collecting his poems for publication: “I am altogether uncertain, whether to look upon myself as a man building a monument, or burying the dead.” Rather than blast off—yet again—about Tao Lin, wouldn’t you rather talk about whether publishing is building a monument or burying the dead? To me, it’s a vastly more provocative discussion.

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99 Comments

  1. Amber

      Two things, anon with the oh-so-clever name. First–did you read what I said? Because I specifically said I *didn’t* need to have monuments, nor fame. Just a little piece of something left behind. I don’t care if nobody knows who I am. Like having a kid, you know? Second–did I say anything about Tao Lin? No. I did not. I was talking about me. Following Lily’s suggestion to have a productive discussion about publishing and not about Tao Lin. But since you appear to have not read the post or my comments closely, you immediately jumped to Tao Lin. (Obsessed much?)

      You know, I don’t mind arguing with Anons. But when they don’t even bother to read or have a cohesive argument or basic level of respect, I fail to see the point. I’m only responding to you to clarify my point for others on here who are not trolls.

  2. Amber

      Two things, anon with the oh-so-clever name. First–did you read what I said? Because I specifically said I *didn’t* need to have monuments, nor fame. Just a little piece of something left behind. I don’t care if nobody knows who I am. Like having a kid, you know? Second–did I say anything about Tao Lin? No. I did not. I was talking about me. Following Lily’s suggestion to have a productive discussion about publishing and not about Tao Lin. But since you appear to have not read the post or my comments closely, you immediately jumped to Tao Lin. (Obsessed much?)

      You know, I don’t mind arguing with Anons. But when they don’t even bother to read or have a cohesive argument or basic level of respect, I fail to see the point. I’m only responding to you to clarify my point for others on here who are not trolls.

  3. Roxane

      You say interesting things here, Lily. Very interesting.

  4. Roxane

      You say interesting things here, Lily. Very interesting.

  5. Matthew Simmons

      “who you calling an existential nihilist,” asks john cage. there are few more life affirming figures in the history of art. “we are alive, listen!” is the whole point of 4′ 33″.

  6. Matthew Simmons

      “who you calling an existential nihilist,” asks john cage. there are few more life affirming figures in the history of art. “we are alive, listen!” is the whole point of 4′ 33″.

  7. Jimmy Chen

      shouldn’t you be “[Ass-Brackets]”?

  8. Jimmy Chen

      shouldn’t you be “[Ass-Brackets]”?

  9. Matty Byloos

      Back to Lily, wise choice. Sometimes it’s interesting when the tangents pop up in the comments, but most times not — especially when the post itself is worthy of the direct attention.

  10. Matty Byloos

      Back to Lily, wise choice. Sometimes it’s interesting when the tangents pop up in the comments, but most times not — especially when the post itself is worthy of the direct attention.

  11. Stu

      Jimmy, I was thinking the same thing.

  12. Stu

      Jimmy, I was thinking the same thing.

  13. alan

      I think anyone who wants to understand why people are so fascinated with Tao Lin would do well to read Blake’s essay yesterday about bluffing.

  14. alan

      I think anyone who wants to understand why people are so fascinated with Tao Lin would do well to read Blake’s essay yesterday about bluffing.

  15. david

      this post is trying to piggy-back off of bsg’s post’s populairty

  16. david

      this post is trying to piggy-back off of bsg’s post’s populairty

  17. Nate Z

      Yes, this is, in part, performance art. Poetry is looking beyond the type and including multiple mediums in its presentation.

  18. Nate Z

      Yes, this is, in part, performance art. Poetry is looking beyond the type and including multiple mediums in its presentation.

  19. Tim Horvath

      There is, of course, a lot more to Cage than that piece. For instance, on a whim I downloaded “Variations IV” recently….it’s closer to trying to encompass or imply everything rather than nothing. If you graft his nothing onto his plenitude you get more affirmation than many a 12 step program.

  20. Tim Horvath

      There is, of course, a lot more to Cage than that piece. For instance, on a whim I downloaded “Variations IV” recently….it’s closer to trying to encompass or imply everything rather than nothing. If you graft his nothing onto his plenitude you get more affirmation than many a 12 step program.

  21. steve ro

      i agree with anon: “I don’t see how ‘writing poetry in the closet’ is not ‘engaging in life’ . . . ‘Intellectual pursuits’ vs. ‘real life’ is a false dichotomy.”

      i’ve never been convinced by the teachers who constantly refer to hemingway driving an ambulance in europe or going to africa on a safari or whatever. i think i’m more interested in writers describing stuff that i will actually do, too, like sitting in my room, or walking outside, on the sidewalk

  22. steve ro

      i agree with anon: “I don’t see how ‘writing poetry in the closet’ is not ‘engaging in life’ . . . ‘Intellectual pursuits’ vs. ‘real life’ is a false dichotomy.”

      i’ve never been convinced by the teachers who constantly refer to hemingway driving an ambulance in europe or going to africa on a safari or whatever. i think i’m more interested in writers describing stuff that i will actually do, too, like sitting in my room, or walking outside, on the sidewalk

  23. mimi

      No, because these:

      )(

      look like ass cheeks.

  24. mimi

      No, because these:

      )(

      look like ass cheeks.

  25. mimi

      And let’s not forget dear Emily Dickinson, who longed to retreat (and eventually did) to her room to write, but instead was burdened (thus engaged) by the real-life, every-day responsibilities imposed upon her by her family and society (her father in particular, and his standing in the local community; her ailing mother). Oh the “stuff” she describes!

  26. mimi

      And let’s not forget dear Emily Dickinson, who longed to retreat (and eventually did) to her room to write, but instead was burdened (thus engaged) by the real-life, every-day responsibilities imposed upon her by her family and society (her father in particular, and his standing in the local community; her ailing mother). Oh the “stuff” she describes!

  27. anon

      BSG = BATTLE STAR GALACTICA

  28. anon

      BSG = BATTLE STAR GALACTICA

  29. Poetic Lives Online « Brian Spears

      […] Hoang at HTMLGIANT wonders about the discussion surrounding Tao Lin: “I do, however, care about the evident boredom people display in their comments about him. […]

  30. Craig Snyder

      This post should time travel to the amazing year 2007.

  31. Craig Snyder

      This post should time travel to the amazing year 2007.

  32. dryerlint

      If Tao Lin does not write a poem, then his critics will fail to envy him.

  33. dryerlint

      If Tao Lin does not write a poem, then his critics will fail to envy him.

  34. rion

      Uh…every fucking post on this site does mention Tao Lin.

  35. rion

      Uh…every fucking post on this site does mention Tao Lin.

  36. stephen

      i like the name “rion.” seems like a nice name.

  37. stephen

      i like the name “rion.” seems like a nice name.

  38. stephen

      The Notorious B.S.G.

  39. stephen

      The Notorious B.S.G.

  40. ZZZZIPP

      THAT’S TRUE MIMI BUT JUSTIN NAMED ASS-BRACKETS I THINK

      BEFORE HE WAS JUST NOTHING “( )”

  41. ZZZZIPP

      THAT’S TRUE MIMI BUT JUSTIN NAMED ASS-BRACKETS I THINK

      BEFORE HE WAS JUST NOTHING “( )”

  42. zusya

      no, this one is.

  43. zusya

      no, this one is.

  44. zusya
  45. zusya
  46. rion

      Thanks….you can license it for use as a first or middle name for your son or daughter.

  47. rion

      Thanks….you can license it for use as a first or middle name for your son or daughter.

  48. Jak Cardini
  49. Jak Cardini