June 23rd, 2011 / 2:40 pm


  1. Drew Lerman

      He didn’t publish the book… he uh published the writer.

  2. M. Kitchell

      uhm, jesus

  3. Matthew Simmons

      But Tao is allergic to my cat! If Dennis published Tao, why aren’t I kept awake all night with his constant—albeit polite and quiet—sneezing?

  4. bobby

      “Lin stood behind me recording the conversation with his iPhone, and said he felt exhilarated eavesdropping on it. ”

      There is spittle on my monitor now from laughing. 

  5. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      To be honest, Dennis Johnson often strikes me as kind of a jerk when I read the mobylives blog.

  6. Adam Robinson

      I think a publisher just needs to believe in the book or whatever.

  7. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I’m sorry I’m doing that annoying commenter thing of not engaging the broader question you’re posing.

  8. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I think I probably agree. Seems like at a publishing house w/ more staff, it’s probably OK as long as the primary editor working on the project believes in it. 

  9. MFBomb

      Such low-stakes for all involved.  Pathetic. A writer whose ambitions never exceed the voyeuristic, and a publisher who publishes writers, not books.

  10. Coon

      Where’s that passage in Whitman about him sitting under a tree while everyone else argues? There’s a similar moment in the ancient Sumerian text Queen of Inanna.

      It’s summertime, after all.


      But for what it’s worth, Johnson’s behavior is a load of hog.

  11. guest

      Well, part of Tao’s performative (or whatever) gimmick is putting himself out there as a ‘human meme’ or something, and he plays into this very self consciously, it seems, usually to amusing ends. So putting emphasis on publishing the writer-as-meme over the book seems like par for the course here, no?

  12. guest

      At the same time, I don’t know about publishing, but when it comes to curating art in general, I don’t think the curator should be obliged to like what s/he puts on display. Some curators will make an unspoken point of juxtaposing pieces they like with pieces they dislike for very specific aesthetic reasons…

  13. KKB

      I think it’s okay for two people to get into personal disagreements or fights that are not resolved through a third party “confrontation, part one,” or videotapes of the confrontation, part one, or tedious but public and weirdly embarassing-for-everyone third-party / parasitic blog post about the confrontation, part one.  In fact, I think it’s even better than okay.  I think it’s better for everyone involved.  And better even for those of us who are not involved.  Like you and me.

  14. Nick Mamatas

      A small press publisher should certainly like the books he or she likes, mainly because he or she will end up spending the next five years looking at a palette of them every time something needs fetching from the garage.

  15. leapsloth14

      Since most of you are writers here, how many think it’s cool when your publisher bashes a book by you they just published?

  16. Anonymous

      “Nah, I’m not gonna be in that opera. I don’t like how cavalier that fatty momma character is with the devil.” – Pavarotti

  17. MFBomb

      I think it speaks to the corner Lin has backed himself into with all the PR hijinks
      that have rendered his persona as important–or more important–than his
      work.  Let’s this be a lesson on the dangers of over-exposure online: you can end up outshining your actual work.

  18. leapsloth14

      Has anyone brought up the whole entire deal as another T Lin stunt?

  19. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      There’s a sitcom in this sentence. I know it.

  20. alan

      Except he didn’t bash, he refused to bash despite repeated goading by the author of this article. I think he’s entitled to his shitty, moralistic opinion of the book and it’s a good thing he didn’t let it get in the way of his publishing it. 

      Is it cool when publishers drop an author because they disapprove of a book’s point of view? 

  21. Bradley Sands

      I didn’t check Tao Lin out of the fucking library. I checked his book out.

  22. Guestagain

      We might be at a place in this culture, or certainly headed to a place, where the artist is more important than any work produced, or the work is at most tangential. Look at how the cult of celebrity has evolved (or devolved) Many celebrities have done little more than create a brand persona, or have been created as brand personas. That the criterion here was to publish the writer not the book doesn’t surprise me, I get that totally. We are deeply into this Warholian climate now and particularly with the web available as an open air market, which is really what it amounts to.

  23. xxy

      you’re assuming celebrity = artist

  24. xxy

      it puts emphasis on how little attention either of them deserve. they’re being confrontational without having anything interesting to say.

  25. deadgod

      I think Guestagain is not so much “assuming” this equation as saying that it has evolved into existence:  namely, that ‘being famous’ is now – and therefore is now to be – considered a work of “art”. 

      – and–maybe she or he means–that to reject this “art” form on moral grounds is futile.

      I’d say that constructing one’ reputation, and constructing those of other people, has always been a form of “art”.

      – but, between ‘what people say about Shakespeare’ (that is, his “celebrity”) and ‘the dramatic poetry attached to “Shakespeare”‘, I just can’t imagine a circumstance whre I’d choose the former.

      People do choose ‘how something is talked about by others’ over ‘the empirical determinations of that something’ – they do such a thing often enough on these very threads.

  26. deadgod

      It depends on what the publisher wants out of ”publishing’, right?

      If they want to curate their own celebrity by publishing these particular writers, then their opinion of the quality and value of the books is secondary to what can be gotten in the way of reflected glory of this particular publishing list.

      If they want their list and their private taste to be mutually generative, then they’ll not publish anything they don’t like for any reason flowing from their taste in a catholic sense, including books and even authors that or who are simply icky to them.

  27. xxy

      i’m not sure you ever have anything to say other that: yeah, but this could be true if you parse these words ad absurdum.

      please explain your last paragraph there. the empirical determinations of that something? what?

  28. Stoney Poingdestre

      a few years back i met dennis at the melville house Space along with his kindly wife. we were talking about an internish opportunity that i had essentially created out of thin air. it was a very pleasant meeting and the office was supremely chic, dumboey as all get out. but despite some later phone calls and emails i never heard from them again. this is why i’m going to become america’s next top novelist.

  29. alanrossi

      mine came with a tao lin action figure holding a lightsaber and that’s all i really wanted. 

  30. deadgod

      In this response, I did not say “[what] could be true”; I said what I think is “true”, regardless of the grammatical nature of the words of some expression (you do know what “parse” means?).

      I agree that you are “not sure”, and I am glad to explain what I have said, but my great suspicion is that any clarification will be tl;dr for you.

      In the last paragraph, there are two things to be chosen between, one “over” the other.  They are each contained in single-quotation marks.  “[T]hat something” in the second refers to the same “something” mentioned in the first. 

      “Empirical” refers to ‘sensation; perception; experience of a phenomenon’, and a “determination” refers either to ‘what makes a thing what it is’ or to ‘what makes the mind understand as it does’ (that is, ‘to what determines a thing’);  an “empirical determination” is ‘a perception that one thinks reveals what something is’.

      So, that “last paragraph”:

      People do choose between accepting the reputation a text, writer, or some other literary thing has and forming an opinion about that text, writer or other literary thing mostly from first-hand experience of it.

      Do you see?  People often form an opinion of, say, Shakespeare’s drama less from reading his plays than from what other people say about his plays.  That is “celebrity”, which is what Guestagain is talking about in the case of famous living people.

  31. Drama Dan

      Seems like PUBLICITY

  32. Your Guest

      If “Tao Lin” spent as much “time” on his “writing” as he does “publicizing” “himself”, maybe “he” wouldn’t “be” such a “pedestrian” “writer.”

  33. Remy

      can you please define “low-stakes” in that sentence :)

  34. kb

      I don’t have a real clear grasp on what any of this is about and I probably don’t want to.

  35. Guestagain

      I’m asserting that until Dada and accelerating with Pop art, the artist as celebrity had been an adjunctive (subordinate) dimension or by product of the work produced, that the work created the catalyst of celebrity. With the internet, big grid nobrow media, and postmodernism (absence of meaning) there has been a growing shift of the artist striving for celebrity very explicitly and using a challenging public personality as a additional catalyst to make the work visible and discussable, to get the work on an ever widening, blurry and fractured radar screen. In extreme (therefore bizarre) cases we have celebrity with no discernable work product other than – celebrity (Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton, those Kardashian chicks) I’m not making any good/bad, right/wrong value judgment about any of this, it’s just an observation, I have kind of an amused indifference to anything other than politics because politics is show biz with dire consequences, but I don’t think there will be anymore Harper Lee or J. D. Salinger figures making seminal works then turning the whole thing away, but I like to be surprised.

  36. John Minichillo

      For a big publisher to do this would be no big deal. A large corporation making a business decision based on the brand of a writer. Happens all the time. Not going to name names but there are plenty of writers who would tell you themselves their last book, or their last three or four, weren’t their best work.  

      What’s different here is that this is a small publisher / small organization. 

      How can one take an ethical position on a book and still put it out? Is it a case of believing it will be good for the press or that the money will be worth it?

      The strange thing about the article is that Lin has made it clear on many occasions that he really did have that relationship and it’s impossible for anyone who knows that not to have it mind when they read the book.  

      The writer of the article makes it about art and age of consent, but lots of otherwise liberally-minded folks are going to have a problem with a 22 yr old man and a 16 yr old girl.

      So Lin is 1000x closer to his character than Nabokov is to his.

      I want to say I think Lin is a superb stylist. I’m not always won over by his subject matter (I let him have that, can sort of think it to myself, his choice, may or may not lose me as a reader) but his prose is impeccable.

      The prose style, of course, can’t be separated from the feelings a reader has about the subject matter. The cool distance of the prose can appear unemotional, and this, then, can intensify a discomfort from a reader who’s got a moral opinion on it.

      But I can’t think of any other example like this. Any other small publisher loves the work they put out as a base requirement. They do too much for too little reward, and there are too many other good books they have to turn down to put out the small number they do.

  37. MFBomb

      Good post, but I’d like to hear more on why you consider him a “superb stylist.” His sentences might be impeccable, but is that enough to qualify him as a “superb stylist”? Good style is more than grammatical competency or high aptitude

      To me, a “superb stylist” is someone who is doing something new with language–someone like Barry Hannah or Mark Richard–and a lot of Lin’s work feels like warmed-over Gertrude Stein or Hemingway at his most mannered, and the only thing that feels new to me is some tweaking that reflects the influence of various kinds of online discourse.

  38. Trey

      to me a superb stylist is someone who gets my hair just the way I like it

  39. John Minichillo

       Hemingway is a stylist. Style doesn’t equal flair. I see it as conscience language choices, which Lin puts first. 

      Hemingway was experimental. We lose sight of that because his influence was huge to the point his structure and frame of reference is seen as the center, the norm, mainstream. How different is the style of Richard Yates from, say, Hills Like White Elephants? It’s as different as it is similar, because each is innovative with the language in his own way.

      Obviously, it’s more than grammar, but a syntactic consistency. Barry Hannah’s a little loose and wild, at times random, and that’s the style that becomes associated with him. It is his style if unpredictable, whereas Hemingway and Lin are far more predictable in language choice and sentence structure.

      Others have been able to copy Lin’s style, sometimes as parody, and that should make it pretty clear it is a style. A lot of it has to do with the cool distance / point of view, but the POV affects the way the sentences are put together, and it’s identifiable and associated with him. 

      The naming of the characters is a good example of this: creates a kind of distance, affects the prose rhythms, and affects our reception of the images & story.

      He’s also talked about the different styles he’s used, their influence, and even identified the technical innovations he’s made. 

      It’s not the only way to see it, but it’s how I see it.

  40. MFBomb

      I didn’t mean to suggest that style equals “flair.” Obviously, the best style somehow corresponds to content, and the two inform each other.

      I also wasn’t suggesting that Hemingway and Stein weren’t stylists (they were)–I was saying that Lin’s style often feels derivative of a kind of modernist style that was innovative almost a hundred years ago.  I’ll also add that his penchant for navel-gazing and writing about such ambitious topics like “hipster boredom” contribute to my assessment that his style is derivative.

  41. Andrewworthington

      This is a cool comment, John, but why is it in this thread?

  42. Andrewworthington

      shit sorry, had just clicked on your comment in the sidebar and didnt realize it was part of a long conversation. sorry for fucking up



  44. deadgod

      How can one take an ethical position on a book and still put it out?

      – by respecting one’s promise, made in ignorance of the squeamish-making writing choices themselves, enough then to ignore those squeamish feelings?  The publisher’s line of thought would be, ‘I’m dismayed at the book delivered to me, but I told the writer I’d go with what she or he gave me, and so I will.’  It might be that, in the small-press world, this kind of integrity is, as well as an emotional compulsion, also a wise business calculation.

  45. Remy

      i desperately want you to define “low-stakes”… it has been bothering me a lot trying to figure out what it means in this context… please can you answer :)

  46. xxy

      bleh. nevermind. i want to call ur writing word salad, but it’s obvious ur deploying at least three kinds of dressing as well.

      this is all you needed to say: ‘People often form an opinion of, say, Shakespeare’s drama less from reading his plays than from what other people say about his plays.’

      this is still malapropos of what i getting at: even if cultivating fame requires mastery of a certain skillset (an ‘art’, if you will), fame is not inexorably intertwined with artists and their works.

      the last time you went to a major art gallery/museum, any one of the works or so you saw that continues to really stick out in your mind… you remember who made it? you remember the artist’s name?

  47. xxy

      i think what you’re getting at is that a certain level of fame is something of a prerequisite for artists making a living with what they do. 

      i still would not argue that fame is an essential component of the artistic process. the ones who think/act otherwise–like tao lin, i imagine–may manage to obnoxiously carve their way into people’s psyches, but no one is going to take their work seriously.

      well, no one for whom fame is an ultimate goal in life, anyway.

      who was it that said ‘fame is worthless’? damien hirst?

  48. xxy

      tao lin’s prose style should be considered the mendoza line of modern american lit.

  49. deadgod

      Better than “bleh”, xxy–you’ve experienced a specific case of a general intuition that I don’t think you had or have yet felt:  Just because something is hard for you to understand at first doesn’t mean that it’s incomprehensible or even that you can’t understand it.  Calling ‘bullshit!’ feels powerful, but isn’t understanding that something isn’t bullshit – when it isn’t! – more and better power?

      Oh well, whatever, never mind.

      You’ve accurately rephrased the second-to-last paragraph of that post.  It was an instance – I thought:  illuminative – of the generality expressed in the last paragraph (the sense of which you questioned).

      Here is an analogy:  a reading of the poetry of Shakespeare is different from “Shakespeare” like knowing the person Anna Nicole Smith is different from “Anna Nicole Smith”.  (Not “different” in exactly the same way, but non-trivially like.)

      Here is the ‘universal’ under which that analogy is rational:  first-hand experience of a thing (or the phenomenon of a thing) is different from first-hand experience of what people say about it.  What people say is often ‘celebration’, whence “celebrity”.  Do you see how the celebrities of Shakespeare and Hirst and Smith are usefully thinkable as instances of the same general process?

      – and that you already understood that, and affected to call ‘bullshit!’ in a merely polemical, as opposed to substantive, way?

  50. deadgod

      Certainly:  “fame is not inexorably intertwined with artists and their works”.  (- nor is fame inextricably entwined with making art.)

      What Guestagain said was that fame itself is a creation – a kind of communal artifact – that a person can be credited with (or blamed for). 

      – and, in that sense, the fame of “Warhol” is ‘something made artfully’ (largely) by Warhol:  “Warhol” is a work of art of Warhol.

      As to your final question, the fact that I remember the names “Poussin” and “Cezanne” is due (I’m hoping) mostly to a sensitivity to their paintings, but must also be partly due to the fact that I got to see those paintings (or, mostly, their reproductions).  In the case of my experience of their paintings, their fame certainly is “inexorably intertwined” with their work.

  51. xxy

      bullshit can be latticed, 17-dimensional, phantasmagoric, quidnuncian, eristic, parmenidean, sesquipedalian-esque, but it’s still bullshit. brevity is your long lost brother. get re-acquainted before it’s too late. 

      to the point u’ve made: “a reading of the poetry of Shakespeare is different from “Shakespeare” like knowing the person Anna Nicole Smith is different from “Anna Nicole Smith”.” <– this is a truism that has precious little to do with the issue at hand: whether or not celebrity is necessity for artists. the next couple of sentence are furthermore more obliquely artful renditions of true statements.

      what general process?

      the only issue i'm having here is your cloudy grammar and obfuscating phrasing. either admit you don't actually have anything to say, or that you take delight in making people think you do.

  52. xxy

      bullshit can be latticed, 17-dimensional, phantasmagoric, quidnuncian, eristic, parmenidean, sesquipedalian-esque, but it’s still bullshit. brevity is your long lost brother. get re-acquainted before it’s too late. 

      to the point u’ve made: “a reading of the poetry of Shakespeare is different from “Shakespeare” like knowing the person Anna Nicole Smith is different from “Anna Nicole Smith”.” <– this is a truism that has precious little to do with the issue at hand: whether or not celebrity is necessity for artists. the next couple of sentence are furthermore more obliquely artful renditions of true statements.

      what general process?

      the only issue i'm having here is your cloudy grammar and obfuscating phrasing. either admit you don't actually have anything to say, or that you take delight in making people think you do.

  53. mimi

      hello again dictionary.com – it’s me again – mimi

  54. deadgod

      I hope your dictionary tells you that “sesquipedalian” already means ‘sesquipedalian-esque’, mimiesquelikesimilitudinous.

  55. deadgod

      ‘bullshit = bullshit’ is a fair issue of your “issue[s]” with truism and confusion

      you still do not understand Guestagain’s “issue at hand”:  not the “necessity”, or not, of celebrity for artists, but rather a mutation in the cultural fact of celebrity

      neither a “truism” nor a tautology is the rich comedy of a bullshit-calling bullshitter

      don’t u go changin

  56. xxy
  57. xxy

      you are truly the emperor of densely gaseous non-discourse.

      it’s a shame your humanity only shows when you’re pushed to a frothily pithy semi-rage.

  58. deadgod

      I disagree:  devolutions of ‘I know you are but what am I’ are not your only choice, even if they, and personal remarks, have been the only recourse for your confusion

  59. deadgod

      everything you don’t understand is truly not “non-discourse”

      it’s a shame that your reading comprehension has not made the appearance that your punctured ego has

  60. deadgod

      You are still confusing your concern with “a certain level of fame [being] something of a prerequisite for artists making a living” with Guestagain’s assertion of “a growing shift of the artist striving for celebrity”.

      Nobody here has said that “fame is an essential component of the artistic process”.

      The issue that Guestagain has raised, and that I’ve elaborated on – I think:  not confusingly – , is that, at least in some cases, “the work [of art] is at most tangential [to the “importance” of the artist]”.

      What do you think of fame itself being an ‘object’ of artistry? – and reputation being an ‘object’ of curation?  Are these signs of decadence, or of a value-neutral transformation?  – are they even new?

  61. xxy

      we’ve gotten to a point where you’re talking about yourself (see: http://www.weblogcartoons.com/cb/when-you-point.gif).

      i don’t know what to else to tell you other than your prose is almost always confusing; confusing because you’re almost always not making any salient points.

      you dress up common-sense statements that share some of the same words as the topic at hand in rhetorical-esque clothing, then almost always don’t directly respond to criticism, constructive or otherwise, all the while dabbling in a humorlessly jaunty, syntactic pseudo-philosophy of dithering incompleteness.

      frankly, i’m happy to just to be engaging with you directly on something, anything. i think i may be the first.

      to bring all this back to some semblance of a circle: if you’re famous for something, it’s for being esoterically obnoxious. which, is cool in its own right. but…

      come on man, simply noun-verb-subject it up every once in a while. simplify your thoughts, your words; simplify what you’re expecting people to read.

      what pisses people off isn’t your clever wordplay, it’s that you’re never ever really saying anything definitive. even your put-downs: punctured ego?

      that sounds.. messy.

  62. xxy

      deadgod: i should say: if it were up to me, you’d be a moderator on this site.

      as to your questions:

      my real problem with all of this can be found in your first question. i do think too much importance is placed on fame as being an ‘object’ (as you write) of artistry. it’s a distraction. a useless vector.

      reputation, though? you can’t always control that. the truth eventually gets out, no matter how many handlers you have finding on your behalf against reality.

      tl;dr: fame is fleeting and useless. if an artist makes fame his/her central focus, he/she is not going to be remembered.

  63. mimi

      i once wrote an essay about all the words in dfw’s short story “Tri-Stan: I Sold Sissee Nar to Ecko’ that i had to look up on dictionary.com and submitted it to mcsweeney’s – they said it was ‘very well researched’ but turned it down

      ‘parmenidean’ looks like it might have something to do with the microbe involved in making parmesan cheese

  64. mimi

      sesquipedalian – septipedalianesquey – sasquatchpedalianesqueish

      mimi likes ‘mimiesquelikesimilitudinous’ – it is simultaneously silly and risque, mellifluous and multipedalianesque

  65. Don

      The problem isn’t the age difference.  The problem is that the male character in the book is a manipulative/controlling/abusive asshole.

  66. deadgod

      if anything is parmesan, then everything is parmesan

      for how could that which is, not be, and that which is not, be

  67. deadgod

      Exegi monumentum aere perennius
      regalique situ pyramidum altius,
      quod non imber edax, non Aquilo impotens
      possit diruere aut innumerabilis
      annorum series et fuga temporum.
      Non omnis moriar [. . .]

      A “central focus on the great vulgarities of celebrity would be – often has been – crippling, but for many artists–for most, I think–, the desire for “fame” in the form of the desire to deserve and to be given love forever is a tremendous drive to and in their making art, however fashionable and realistic an embrace of evanescence be.

  68. deadgod

      let “messy” be your call

      for example:

      are you still proudly confused by the phrase “empirical determinations of that something”?

  69. mimi

      who put the ram in the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong?

  70. xxy

      i’m confused that you don’t seem to realize that that phrase bears little to no meaning.

  71. xxy

      this is me upon returning to the thread only to find that you’ve replied to me again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfNReBBUk_w

  72. guest

      sup bro

  73. Guestagain

      Recall I was responding to understanding why the publisher selected the writer, not the work, if this really is the case. The writer in this case turbocharges at least the visibility of work by (as you put it) managing to obnoxiously carve his way into people’s psyches, and I don’t know that the work would have the same amperage without this (?) What little I’ve read of Tao Lin is hilarious and his success at tweeking the lit establishment is I think likewise quite hilarious and anyone generating so much venom and threats has to be on some kind of right track. I have no idea or opinion of the ultimate “value” or critical assessment of the material and would leave that to professionals, the majority of my reading is technical. To deadgod’s question on if this “new” I think probably not, although it might be new to literature, but I also think the overall attitude and deportment is in the pretty vacant tradition that appeared in 1976 (There’s no point in asking, you’ll get no reply) I view much of contemporary anglo hipster culture as antecedent not as much from the Beats as from Lydon/Rotten, which was a true seminal tipping point, so maybe a morphing of this from rock-n-roll (more accurately, from the death of rock-n-roll) and into the serious lit world is new. I got no reason and it’s all too much, you’ll always find us out to lunch…

  74. Ilya Zarembsky

      Suits on one side, zealots on the other, no middle ground