Sunday Book Club
Few novels give such a convincing account of what it means to live in the post-internet age as Tao Lin’s Taipei. Written while Lin was still in his twenties and publishing Twitter threads and Gmail chats in print form (he still does, via his publishing company Muumuu), Taipei is a semi-autobiographical account that captures the mundane, self-obsessed, socially anxious hallmarks of 21st century living.
Its lead character Paul is an aspiring writer who spends very little of novel writing. Instead, he in indulges in the great sedatives of our age: Tumblr, Twitter, Gmail and Gawker while perpetually topping up on a daily cocktail of narcotics, his favourite of which include Adderall, Percocet, Xanax, Klonopin, Methadone and Oxycodone among many, many others. Both forms of sedation are consumed at regular intervals by Paul (often post-coitus, in the foetal position) and represent a misplaced desire to connect that characterises much of the book.
The prose, which is generally underwritten and at times borders on inhospitable, is another striking feature. Lin shows no interest in developing pulse-quickening plot turns or significant character development. Instead, the softly undulating narrative, split between New York and Taipei, reads more like a blog post, forcing the reader to live Paul’s world and indulge in the same decompressed reality. It’s no surprise to hear Bret Easton-Ellis is a huge fan of Taipei, his front-cover endorsement crowning Lin as, “the most interesting prose stylist of his generation.” Whether you believe that or not, Lin is undoubtedly of his generation and Taipei may well go on to become a key key text in early 21st century literature.