shoplifting from american apparel

Film & Reviews

55 Points: Shoplifting from American Apparel

Jordan Castro and Noah Cicero in "Shoplifting from American Apparel" (2012).

Jordan Castro and Noah Cicero in “Shoplifting from American Apparel” (2012).

1. This is a review of the recent film adaptation, not the book, although I’ll also say a few things about the book.

2. I saw the film on 14 March at the Logan Theatre in Logan Square, Chicago. It was a special event. About 70 people were in attendance.

3. The director, Pirooz Kalayeh, was there, and I spoke with him before and after the screening. Brad Warner, who plays Tao Lin (or “‘Movie’ Tao Lin”), was also in attendance.

4. Pirooz gave me a poster and a button and a DVD copy of the film. Thank you, Pirooz!

5. I’ve read Shoplifting maybe half a dozen times. I’ve also taught it twice. It’s my favorite of Tao’s books and I consider it something of a masterpiece.

6. Some people persist in thinking Tao isn’t a stylist, but I think he’s a brilliant stylist. Although maybe people are nowadays more convinced of this? I don’t know.

7. As Tao himself has pointed out (see here for instance), all of his books are written in different styles, something that I think obvious when one really looks at them.

8. I suspect some people really aren’t looking at them.


April 15th, 2013 / 8:07 am

“A Dozen Dominants: The Current State of US Indy Lit”

[Update: Some reader comments below prompted me to write a follow-up post.]

I was asked over the summer to contribute a critical article to the online UK journal Beat the Dust; they wanted me to write on the current state of US literature. I “narrowed that down” to indy lit (small press publishing, whatever you want to call it)—still an impossibly huge topic, of course. So I ended up proposing twelve dominants that I’d argue govern the current indy lit scene (at least as best as I can see things from where I’m sitting—Chicago, USA, 2011).

Dominant” is a term I stole from the Russian Formalists; it essentially means a feature or aspect of a text that most people feel that the text, to be valid, should demonstrate or otherwise include. (e.g., rhyme was often a dominant in English poetry until the 20th century and the advent of free verse; now the situation is mostly the opposite.) (See also this.) Below, I’ll list “my twelve” dominants, but please see the full article for a more thorough explanation…


Craft Notes / 123 Comments
October 27th, 2011 / 2:37 pm

while we’re at it…

Shoplifting from American Apparel is being made into a movie.  Here is a link to the kickstarter page. All of the information is there.  It’s being done by the same people who did Noah’s The Human War and I think it looks pretty exciting.  I’m going to donate.  I suggest you do the same if you want to.  Don’t donate if you don’t want to.  Smoke weed if that’s your thing.  I’m disabling comments because I don’t care.

Web Hype / Comments Off on while we’re at it…
March 7th, 2011 / 5:02 am

Noah Cicero on Why Writers Write

[Noah Cicero sent this to me last week. And yes, it is another (slight) commentary on a review of Shoplifting from American Apparel. It’s more than that, too. If you’re unfamiliar with Noah Cicero’s writing, you can visit his blog, or check out his latest book The Insurgent. -Gene]

In one of the reviews of Tao Lin’s Shoplifting from American Apparel Huw Nesbitt makes the statement, “Real art seeks to examine the truth as it is; not through relativism, atomism, or universalism, but by seeking that which once was or irrevocably, true.” If you have read analytic philosophy your first thought after reading those lines will probably be, “Those sentences don’t make any sense.” The proposition, “the truth as it is,” is actually relativism and universal in its meaning. How can something be true but not universal is a contradiction. READ MORE >

Random / 390 Comments
April 7th, 2010 / 12:05 pm


My Own Top 3

44084886Top 3 winners

A couple days ago, I sent out an email asking a fairly large group of writer, editor and publishing friends to send me their nominations for “top 3 books published this year.” I told them to interpret “top” any way they chose to, and to feel no pressure to expound on their choices in any particular way. The plan is to publish a large list of all the Top 3 lists next week (so far I’ve received 20 contributions, and they’re still coming in) but yesterday I kicked off the festivities early by posting one response by Zak Smith in advance of the full list. Today I’m offering up my own selections, prefaced by a short explanation of the way I chose to interpret my own injunction to choose the “top” books of the year.

I spent large swaths of 2009 struggling with fiction, especially novels, while also struggling to write one. (Anyone see a relationship between those two facts? … Didn’t think so.) Here are three novels that challenged and expanded my notion of what a novel could, should, or ought to be, but more important than that: they provided me with enormous entertainment and edification. The three are vastly different, but each is, I think, a work of startling interiority, and this seems to be what I needed in ’09. Each book in its own way offered me succor and deliverance from the confines of myself, by offering up for a getaway space the extraordinary confines of some other self, and I returned from each readerly excursion in better shape than when I left.

Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin.

The Interrogative Mood by Padgett Powell.

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker.

ALSO: A special shout-out to My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer, which has a 2008 © in it but didn’t really surface until early ’09. A massively important book and instantly among the most important and treasured Collecteds I own.

December 12th, 2009 / 12:18 pm

Reviews & Snippets

Former Tao Lin Intern Reviews Current Tao Lin Novel

Former Tao Lin Intern Reviews Current Tao Lin Novel

My good friend, Soffi Stiassni, formerly of the Tao Lin Internship Program, and also an alumna of this site, has reviewed her ex-boss’s new novella. Now, I know a lot of people feel like we’ve been linking to Tao-related and SFAA-related stuff too much. Well, go fuck yourselves. Seriously.

Essentially, the reader of “Shoplifting from American Apparel” is a voyeur, preying upon characters who are voyeurs. Beneath a patina of isolation and ennui the innocence of these characters remains. They are intact, untouched, half members of the world at large.

October 17th, 2009 / 2:52 am

Author Spotlight & Reviews

Shoplifting from American Apparel: A Review

Getting a head in life

Getting a head in life

In writing about Shoplifting from American Apparel, I will try very hard not to say if it’s good or bad. I will also not align myself as a fan or dissenter of Tao Lin, or participate in the murky controversies over what people think about him — controversies which both propel his fame while compromising it. That kind of discourse is inflated and not interesting to me. I will admit I’m ambivalent about writing a review of this book, as it already has had its ample share of attention — I just wanted to write about some formal things I thought about while reading the book. (I am writing this review without the book in hand, and cannot check facts, and I read the book briskly, so this may be a compromised account.)


October 3rd, 2009 / 11:45 am

Tao Lin Reading + Q&A + Minireview

Tao Lin reads from the first section of Shoplifting from American Apparel, then answers questions about writing process, influence, shoplifting, etc.

I read and greatly enjoyed this novella a couple weeks ago. It makes some interesting use of what people who want to put tags on things could call verbal minimalism inherting cinéma vérité, as well as a mash of Andys (Warhol and Kaufman), new uses of internet language in print, and a linear-alinear timeline modeling that more correctly models everyday life than most textual attempts at representing everyday life. That’s if you want to put tags on things.

I’d prefer to just say that I laughed more at parts of this book than I’ve laughed in a long time, and I think those who see this book as ‘incomplete’ might be missing part of the point here, which is not to exploit the expectations of Tao Lin’s previous work while also not exploit some kind of forced shifting of an artist’s tone. Like many artists who are ahead of the curve, this book is ahead of a curve that you might not yet see curving, particularly because it most succeeds on the level of entertaining the reader while being ahead of the curve, which then most easily becomes mistaken as unfocused, when in fact it is the extreme opposite: focused beyond focus.

I really enjoyed this book.

You can buy it here.

Author Spotlight / 22 Comments
September 28th, 2009 / 11:04 pm

Alternate titles for this season’s two most anticipated releases


*click on covers to purchase original, and much better versions

Blake and Tao are two very talented writers, both in their own right spearheading the world of indie publishing in two very different ways. Just poking a little fun guys, good job both of you. I’m excited to read your books.

Author News / 32 Comments
September 10th, 2009 / 5:15 pm

GIANT REVIEW, special gchat collaborative edition: Shoplifting from American Apparel


Drew Toal and I were having such a great time talking about Tao Lin’s new novella, Shoplifting from American Apparel, that we figured we owed it to the world to go public. So we forced ourselves to not discuss the book anymore until we were both finished, then we scheduled a time to meet up online and gchat about it. We ended up talking about a lot of extra-literary stuff (maybe too much?) but given that it’s Tao, and that we know him, that was pretty much unavoidable squared, but I think we did a pretty kickass job with the book when we got around to it. Drew was at his office, in mid-town, and I was at my office, in my bedroom. After the jump, we get down to it.


Web Hype / 159 Comments
September 10th, 2009 / 2:29 pm