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Bloody Shambles

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Taipei

Taipei - Tao Lin This is an interior monologue. There. That's the one piece of information I think you need to know before going into Teipei. If you understand that, you understand where the author's coming from. Is it honest? Yes. There's no denying that if you transcribed your own inner monologue word for word, it probably wouldn't be too different from this, in style if not substance (abuse). Is it self-indulgent? Fuck yeah. It's an interior monologue. That's what they are - the self. Indulging.Is it good.....? That really depends on what you look for in a piece of literary fiction.My initial thought on Teipei was that it reads as if written by The Onion News Network's Autistic Reporter, Michael Faulk. The book's central character, Paul, is jarringly disconnected from the people around him. He's oddly specific about small details, and lacking in emotion or empathy. This is eventually explained, somewhat perfunctorily, through a two page potted history of the main character, (the sole piece of exposition anywhere in the novel), explaining more or less that, yes, Paul does indeed have "issues". This stands out to me as something Tao Lin may have been required to add by his editors, to give some sort of context to the main character.As I read on, I found my own internal monologue synching up with Paul's. At times, I would even catch myself daydreaming in ways that could have been lifted straight from the novel. I think that's this novel's great strength - the interior monologue device gives an instantly deep connection to a novel where very little of emotional import takes place. If it weren't for that aspect, there really would be very little appeal to reading the neurotic ramblings of a self-indulgent, drug-addled, twenty-something, even if those ramblings have the ring of absolute authenticity.On the subject of authenticity, I've since spent some time skimming interviews etc online which could easily be read as extensions to the novel. Taipei's "Paul" is obviously Tao Lin, and some of Tao Lin's own well-documented exploits match up to those cited in the book. If you don't enjoy Tao Lin in these interviews, I suspect you'll dislike the book. [NSFW] Interview with VICE My favourite parts of Teipei were the convoluted analogies, like:"Cleveland's three tallest buildings, each with a different shape and style of architecture and lighting, were spaced oddly far apart, like siblings in their thirties, in a zany sitcom. After spending their lives "hating" one another, in a small town, they moved to different cities and were happy, but then got coincidentally transferred by their employers to the same medium-size city. They were all named Frank."The book needs that sense of whimsy to balance out what can sometimes be excruciatingly specific and banal details. Overall, this is an experiment akin to recording yourself narrating your own internal monologue over a trashy weekend, then having the whole lot transcribed. Which is essentially what Tao Lin has done. I enjoyed it, but many won't.