August 23rd, 2011 / 2:02 am

An excellent interview with Ben Lerner by Tao Lin is an online exclusive at the Believer.


  1. Kent Johnson

      I first met Ben Lerner when I visited his creative writing class before a reading I gave at Brown years ago. I remember being impressed by him– his questions and remarks were very keen. We kept in touch over the years a bit, including when he was in Spain. Sometime later, after his first book, I interviewed him; I think this was the first interview done with him. You can see it here:

  2. Nicholas Liu

      Trippy to see Tao being “serious” and being so good at it.

  3. Tummler

      This interview is just fantastic. Thank you for the link.

      I find the “new title” of Tao’s third novel interesting as well.

  4. taolinsuperfan69

      Siddhartha 2 was mentioned as possible title to his third novel prior to the announcement that it was sold to Vintage, which gave the title as Taipei.

  5. taolinsuperfan70

      Siddhartha 2 was mentioned as a possible title to his third novel
      prior to the announcement that it was sold to Vintage, which gave the
      title as Taipei, Taiwan.

  6. deadgod

      why not Siddhartha 2.0

      why not get with the new-new program

      the gnu-knew-nou-nooh program

      do you mean Taipei, Taiwan

  7. deadgod

      what is the difference in meaning between ‘It feels exciting.’ and ‘It is exciting.’

      can something which ‘feels’ exciting not ‘be’ exciting

      which is to ask for the muumuuvian meaning of “exciting”

  8. deadgod

      oh this post, which has the earlier title I’d read, appeared while I was reading the interview

      still not sure why the rocky sequel-nomen rather than the internet/e-gadget sequel-nomen

  9. guest

      can you elaborate?

  10. guest

      can you elaborate?

  11. taolinsuperfan69

      “it is exciting [to me]” = “it feels exciting”

  12. deadgod

      I think so too

      as far as you have gone

      but don’t you need the “[to me]” on both sides of the equation if you put it on one side of the equation

      to ‘whom’ something is exciting, to that sentience it feels exciting

      and if something is and feels exciting to any sentient being, then that sentient being can accurately make the existentially positive statement that:

      “it is exciting”

      I think I understand the muumuuvian scruple against saying what something “is”

      it is carrying into discourse the distinction between noumenon and fainomenon–the phenomenological distinction

      when one sees a red thing, one can’t know for sure that the thing is red

      –so ‘it seems red’ or ‘I think it’s red’ or ‘looks red to me!’

      but if something feels exciting, excitement falling in the category “feeling”, why scruple phenomenologically to say simply that it is exciting

  13. taolinsuperfan96

      saying something ‘is’ exciting may attract ‘shit-talkers’ who will argue that no, it is most definitely not exciting. it could also be potentially confusing and strange, like if discussing something conventionally unexciting, eg. the mark on this wall is very exciting. it may also be unfairly misleading, like a movie trailer claiming “… the most exciting film of this summer…”, which might cause naive ppl to spend money and see the movie, finding that to them, it is not exciting at all. not that i think it is necessary to always add ‘feels…’, i am just commenting 4 fun.

  14. guest


  15. Tummler

      Well I did forget to mention that the interview has definitely encouraged me to familiarize myself with Ben Lerner’s writing, or at least to attempt to do so.

      To elaborate on finding the new title interesting: Siddhartha 2 intrigues me because of its ambiguity—I.E., I wonder what the title could mean or what significance it could potentially contain. Considering that the title of each of Tao’s previous novels served as a low-level non sequitur in reference to some sort of repeating triviality found in the book, I am also led to wonder whether the phrase “Siddhartha 2” will adhere to the same sort of pattern. The new title has also dissuaded my suspicion(s) that this third novel may possibly correlate with Tao’s short story of the same name, and perhaps it still will. I am excited to find out. Or should I say that I feel excited to find out?

  16. megan boyle

      ‘super mario clouds’ for my life would be me with no hands i think. i liked reading this.

  17. deadgod

      cool, me somewhat too

      you are right again

      when one says jaws is exciting,

      someone else can with accurate strictness say naw, it’s exciting to you because you don’t know that kiddie flix sux

      –but:  and the first person says so should I say imo or imho or in my view or as I see things or my perspective/experience/interpretation is that before every declaration

      I’m with the first/third person:  to say constantly that one’s view is a perspective is otiose and a bit of anti-rhetoric that is quite rhetorical

      and to say that a feeling is felt rather than that it is–‘I feel happy’ instead of ‘I am happy’–is also anti-rhetoric that is rhetorical

      these muumuuvianisms bug me not much but a little

      those are some of my opinions

  18. guest


  19. Don

      The Lerner novel is great.  Ask your library to order it!

  20. Char

      Blake didn’t like it

  21. Nicholas Liu

      “I’m with the first/third person:  to say constantly that one’s view is a perspective is otiose and a bit of anti-rhetoric that is quite rhetorical”

      It is very “freshman term paper”. “I think”, “In my opinion”, etc. A rhetor would say to drop the tic except where emphasis on the subjectivity is required. But I guess a Muumuu writer would say it is always required because subjectivity should be marked not only when marking it is “stylish” or “effective”.

      Maybe that is the point (of the pose) of the Muumuu style? To be a permanent freshman? To not know what parts of a piece, or of language, are and are not [more] important/[more] deserving of emphasis.


  22. alan

      Thanks, that’s a really good interview too.

  23. Hehehe

      The Benlerner in The Believer

  24. Taomind

      you should write an essay on each of tao’s titles. feel interested in that

  25. deadgod

      Yes; for me, the qualifiers come out in conversation – and writing – when I feel the pressure to be tentative on account of ignorance.  Not ‘subjective’ exactly, though that’s part of it: 

      I know that tree is a live oak, but I’m not as sure that those flowers are plumaria–I just think so.  Being confident that you’ll put in the “imo”, I’ll call Faulkner “great”, but my choice for the best of his novels – and I haven’t read all of them – might not be the majority or the most popular pick, so ‘in my reading, …’.  I’m pretty sure that my pick for ‘Faulkner’s best’ is a top 3 – 5? – choice, so I don’t need to qualify that it’s greatly respected, but other well-thought-of Faulkner novels I think are too ‘Faulknerian’ and don’t especially like, so I’ll signpost my disagreement with their good rep.

      There isn’t really a hard-and-fast rule; just say what seems useful to the other person in their sorting out one’s knowledge/assertions/questions/etc.

      I think the muumuuvians are, not dogmatic, but programmatic in this foregrounding of subjectivity.  Even in the comments here, I definitely feel the pressure they exert to take responsibility for establishing awareness of the limits to their responsibility.  –not a bad thing.  –easily lampooned, though.