25 Points: Taipei

Taipei Tao LinTaipei
by Tao Lin
Vintage, 2013
256 pages / $14.95 buy from Amazon









1. “Paul dreamed something about his cube-shaped room being a storage facility in which he’d been placed by an entity that believed in his resale value.”

2. “He felt like he was trying to remove the surface of a glass bottle by pawing at it with oven mitts.”

3. “‘Nice,’ said Paul staring transfixed at Fran’s delicate and extreme gaze, like that of a skeleton with eyeballs, or a person with their face peeled off.”

4. “Daniel arrived with his friend Fran, 22, whose intriguing gaze, Paul noticed with interest, seemed both disbelieving and transfixed in discernment, as if meticulously studying what she knew she was hallucinating.”

5. “He awoke at night fifteen hours later and, while showering, felt like he lived in a module attached to a spaceship far enough from any star to never experience daylight.”

6. “The book party, like algae, feeling its way elsewhere, moved slowly but persistently from the bookstore’s basement to its first floor, to the sidewalk outside, converging finally with other groups at a corner bar…”

7. “There were times when his memory, like an external hard drive that had been taken from him and hidden inside an unwieldy series of cardboard boxes, or placed at the end of a long and dark and messy corridor…”

8. “Daniel was standing with limbs and neck uncoordinatedly extended, slightly striding in place–the pre-predatory stance of a chained thing that had broken free and didn’t yet know where to direct its vengeance, or what to do generally.”

9. “…watched the police car, or a police car, zoom past in the left lane, with emergency lights on and sirens off, quick and soundless as an apparition or the hologram of itself.”

10. “One the plane, after a cup of black coffee, Paul thought of Taipei as a fifth season, or ‘otherworld,’ outside, or in equal contrast with, his increasingly familiar and self-consciously repetitive life in America, where it seemed like the seasons, connecting in right angles, for some misguided reason, had formed a square, sarcastically framing nothing–or been melded, Paul vaguely imagined, about an hour later, facedown on his arms on his dining tray, into a door-knocker, which a child, after twenty to thirty knocks, no longer expecting an answer, has continued using, in a kind of daze, distracted by the pointlessness of his activity, looking absently elsewhere, unaware when he will abruptly, idly stop.”

11. “At Kyle and Gabby’s apartment–his first time back since moving out–Paul uncharacteristically approached an intriguing, attractive stranger named Laura and asked her questions with a serious expression standing at a maybe too-close distance, as if after an unskillful teleportation he didn’t want to underscore by fixing.”

12. “Paul told three classmates Barry had ‘tricked him,’ then returned to the floor and put the chess pieces away and, with a sensation of seeing a spider crawl out of view inside his room, felt himself reassimilating Barry into the world as a kind of robot-like presence he would always need to be careful around and would never comprehend.”

13. “In his room, with the light on, Paul lay entirely beneath his blanket, aware that Michelle was the last person who’d affected him this cripplingly–to zero productivity, not even listening to music, motionless between his blanket and mattress like some packaged thing.”

14. “Paul asked if he could have a Klonopin and Fran gave him one and looked to his left, where he was surprised to see Daniel standing in place, a few feet away, looking at Fran with the fixed, discerning, earnest gaze of a three-year-old processing information without considering utility or personal relevance.”

15. “Paul had begun to feel depressed without knowing why–maybe unconsciously intuiting what life would be like in a giant house with a significant other and a routine, how forty or fifty years, like windows on a computer screen, maximized on top of each other, could appear like a single year that would then need to be lived repeatedly, so that one felt both nearer and withheld from death–and within a few minutes was silent and visibly troubled, staring down at his salad.”

16. “…but due to 2mg Klonopin remained poised, with a peaceful sensation of faultlessness, physiologically calm but mentally stimulated, throughout the night, as if beta testing the event by acting like an exaggerated version of himself, for others to practice against, before the real Paul, the only person without practice, was inserted for the actual event.”

17. “On the walk to Daniel’s apartment, to get Drugstore Cowboy, dozens of elderly, similarly dressed Asian men were standing in a loosely organized row, like a string of Christmas lights…”

18. “Around twenty-five people were dancing to loud music with faces that seemed expressive in an emotionless, hidden, bone-ward manner–the faces of people with the ability to stop clutching the objects of themselves and allow their brains, like independent universes with unique and inconstant natural laws, to react, like trees to wind, with their bodies to music.”

19. “Paul walked directly to a two-seat sofa (golden brown and deeply padded as the upturned paw of an enormous stuffed animal) and lay on it, on his side, facing the room, and closed his eyes.”

20. “When he wanted to know what happened two days ago, or five hours ago, especially chronologically, he would sense an impasse, in the form of a toll, which hadn’t been there before, payable by an amount of effort (not unlike that required in problem solving or essay writing) he increasingly felt unmotivated to exert.”

21. “They each ate a chocolate and walked through the park, to the end of a beach, where they sat in the gently fluorescent light of a half moon that looked like a jellyfish photographed, from far below, in mid-propulsion, its short tentacles momentarily inside itself.”

22. “While trying to discern what, from which fast-food restaurant, to buy and eat next, he idly imagined himself for more than ten minutes as the botched clone of himself, parked outside the mansion of the scientist who the original Paul paid to clone himself and paid again to ‘destroy all information’ regarding ‘[censored].'”

23. “If he recognized the thought or feeling, and didn’t want it repeated, he’d end its formation by focusing elsewhere, like how someone searching for a lost dog on a field at night wouldn’t approach the silhouette of a tree.”

24. “…after weeks or months, he wouldn’t know it had been forgotten, like a barn seen from inside a moving train that is later torn down, its wood carried elsewhere on trucks.”

25. “…a uniformly cloudy expanse, which glowed with the same intensity and asbestos-y texture everywhere, seeming less like a sky than the cold-colored surface of a cold, hollowed-out sun.”

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  1. bemightee

      i’ve never read a tao lin book and i treat his internet presence with bemusement but this made me want to read taipei. thanks.

  2. Chad Morgan

      ENOUGH about this guy.

  3. columbusmatt

      You’ll notice, if you read the “reviews” (i.e. puff-suck-up-pieces) of his work how hard people work to imply they found something meaningful…

  4. Guest

      What took y’all so long? I kept hitting refresh for the next Tao Lin HTMLGiant puff piece and was getting worried until I saw this one 24-hours later.

  5. columbusmatt

      If you read the “reviews” (i.e. puff/suck-up-pieces) of his work you’ll detect how hard the “reviewers” have to work to find/convey some implication of meaningfulness…

  6. Chad Morgan

      Honestly, I’d rather read about Seth Oelbaum.

  7. Brooks Sterritt

      my last comment is gone but keep it coming I love it

  8. columbusmatt

      Pronouns, by default, refer to the preceding noun.

      By “it” do you mean your “last comment”?

      (understanding of capitalization, punctuation, and what constitutes a proper sentence is also super cool…)

  9. Brooks Sterritt

      me like internet

  10. Brooks Sterritt

      grind that axe

  11. Brooks Sterritt


  12. Brooks Sterritt

      i’d rather read about them both simultaneously while playing bingo on MDMA

  13. Brooks Sterritt
  14. Adam Digged

      you serious, clark? pronouns do not, by default, refer back to the preceding noun which they are modifying. perhaps you are thinking about relative pronouns (also, do not necessarily refer back to the previous noun by default).

      your weekend homework assignment on pronouns: read donne’s libertine poetry. After that, come back and tell us what you think about them. it’ll be good.

  15. Chad Morgan

      I mean, at least you’re contributing.

  16. postitbreakup

      like he was “moving through the universe” than “walking on a sidewalk.”

      like a slow, amorphous flickering

      like he’d been acting in a movie and the scene had ended

      like a personal failing, a direct indication of internal malfunctioning, which he should focus on privately correcting

      as if at a concert

      as a plastic bag, stuck there in a wind

      as a rarely seen animal

      like entering a different family’s house as a small child, or the beginning elaborations of a science-fiction conceit

      like a shedding of something delicate

      as if he alone had a vast knowledge of horrible truths, which, he knew, he didn’t

      as if to better escape Paul with a more streamlined form

      as if there was a problem to be solved

      like an amoeba trying to create a personal web-page using CSS

      as if to offer a way back, through her, to some prior intimacy, from where they could tunnel carefully elsewhere, or to the same place, but with a kind of skill this time, having practiced once

      as an incognizable information

      like someone else’s consciousness

      like a kind of hiding

      like a hardcover book

      as if, unable to return to sleep, at least in position to hear what, in his absence, might be happening there.

      as one of those mysterious phenomena, contained within informational boxes, in picture-heavy books on natural history, which he would’ve felt scared, as a child, if he was alone in a dark room, to think about for too long

  17. columbusmatt

      Metaphorically speaking…(in the “as if” world).


  18. columbusmatt

      ” it’ll be good.”


  19. columbusmatt

      At least Seth IS.

  20. Trey

      baby talk is an infallible argument. gj.

      this comment thread reminds me of htmlgiant 3-4 years ago, in a good/bad way

  21. columbusmatt



  22. Brooks Sterritt

      thanks, postit, for extending the list/”getting it.” the *accumulation* of figurative language in the book was one aspect i really enjoyed.

  23. columbusmatt

      Honest question (if anyone’s still here…):

      What about the above interests you in his work.

  24. bemightee

      excerpts from his earlier books always struck me as being devoid of emotion and just too minimalist for my taste.the former of which doesn’t bother me as much as the latter. these experpts seem to indicate a shift in his style (namely towards something i’d be more inclined to read) plus i’m mildly interested in taiwan (although i’m not sure if the book actually takes place there) and i’ll cope to the fact that i also want to see what all the hype is about.

  25. columbusmatt

      Thanks. When you do, post your thoughts, eh?

  26. rawbbie

      idk if anyone got the review at all. I noticed by point 2. and was proven right by point 3.

      tao’s work has had very very little figurative language before, so this is pretty different…