Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Richard Yates by Tao Lin

Reviewed by Ingrid

Note: I received an advance copy of this book through The Rumpus Book Club.

Published: 2010

It's about: Usually I like to write this section myself as opposed to copy and pasting from some other source, but in this case I have decided to provide you with Tao's own summary of this book in answer to this question: "How would you summarize Richard Yates to potential readers if you didn't write it but were a publicist paid to promote it?" (click here for the full interview.)

(I know it's long but you should read it--it gives you a good sense of Tao's writing style.)

In Richard Yates—Tao Lin’s second novel—22-year-old Haley Joel Osment, a writer living temporarily on Wall Street in Manhattan working part-time at a membership library on the Upper East Side meets, on the internet, 16-year-old Dakota Fanning, a high school student with a history of involvement with older men. After talking for hundreds of hours on Gmail chat, through email, and by phone Haley Joel Osment travels two hours by train to visit Dakota Fanning in rural New Jersey where they sit by the Delaware River and walk around and eat Chinese food. Haley Joel Osment says he doesn’t want to go back to New York City and that he feels happy in Dakota Fanning’s town, which he describes as “great weather, fucked people,” in part due to the number of people that “don’t have to go to school anymore” due to severe depression, according to Dakota Fanning, who says, with amounts of humor and self-awareness, that she herself is severely depressed but still has to go to school.

The next few months, in secret from Dakota Fanning’s mother, whom Dakota Fanning repeatedly lies to and whom they both “fear,” to some degree, Haley Joel Osment and Dakota Fanning visit each other dozens of times, with many “close calls” of being discovered. Finally, as the relationship begins to become quarrelsome, Dakota Fanning’s mother finds out about Haley Joel Osment and aggressively confronts him by phone before gradually welcoming his presence in her and Dakota Fanning’s lives, eventually inviting him to live with her and Dakota Fanning in their house, as his and Dakota Fanning’s relationship becomes increasingly fraught and out-of-control—the result, to some degree, of having naturally isolated themselves from their few friends and being already alienated from the adults in their lives—and begins to operate, to degrees neither of them have experienced before with another person, within a metaphysical context uninfluenced by most societal and cultural norms, resulting in a chronically lying and bulimic Dakota Fanning, an increasingly distrustful and confused Haley Joel Osment, and an overworked and screaming single-mother of two with a full-time job who, at one point, responds to a question from Dakota Fanning by saying that she doesn’t know the answer and that “[her] body is about to shut down.”

I thought: Richard Yates has a bit more narrative substance than the two other works by Tao Lin that I've read - Shoplifting From American Apparel (see my review) and Bed, though it is of course still written in Tao’s signature deadpan style. His writing is honest. It’s like he’s not trying at all, which I like, and which I would in this case define as honest. I feel as if recently I’ve read far too many books/poems/crap that try so hard to sound so lofty and smart. (ie like this.) But Tao Lin is an intelligent person and knows what he is doing. I liked this book for reasons similar to why I liked Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and some of Hunter S. Thompson’s other writing. I like things that push the envelope in dramatic and seemingly ridiculous ways. That takes courage that I admire. Alright, let's be honest--it's just sexy.

Putting this one on the shelf, right next to Shoplifting From American Apparel.

Warnings: Sex, language.

Favorite excerpts:

"A few hours later Haley Joel Osment emailed [Dakota Fanning] Microsoft Paint drawings of an animal bred for optimal use in bestiality and an extremely rare species of fish named strubco@aol.com after Sean Strub's email address. "

&, of course, the index-

(image via)