At 23 years old, Tao Lin is already a prolific—and prodigiously published—author. Now Melville House will publish two of his books: Eeeee Eee Eeee, a novel, and Bed, a collection of stories. Lin also published a collection of poems, has another one on the way, also from Melville, and is working on another novel. He’s also a prolific blogger and frequent web-trawler for whom the Web is an integral part of writing and life. PW asked him to respond to a few questions by scouting the Web for answers.
You obviously write a lot—a book of poems and two books of fiction all within a year, and another novel in the works, right? On top of that, you’re an avid blogger. Does the Internet—Myspace, blogs, millions of web sites—distract writers from the act of writing, or does it help?
I’ve posted on my blog the internet’s effect on my writing. I think that post is accurate, except maybe I sound a little like I’m complaining in it, which I don’t want to do. I like the internet. I like writing. Whatever I am doing that is what I "want" to do.
A lot of the characters in the books are sad, lonely (and it would seem, from your blog name—Reader of Depressing Books—that you are drawn to "depressing books). Why are you compelled to write about these kinds of characters?
At the time I was mostly compelled by feeling very bad and alone and not knowing what else to do, in the world, each day and night, sitting at the computer. Someone else might have taken drugs or watched TV or maybe joined a club. I typed sentences.
You are certainly taking advantage of the internet as a means of self-promotion. Can you say something about how other, less web-savvy, writers might do the same?
I recommend starting a blog. Blogs are free, easy to maintain, and not censored. Anyone can start a blog. I think a four-year-old could start and maintain a one.
Who is your ideal reader?
My ideal reader is myself. I’m the only person who knows exactly what I want to read. And that is what I write. Then I read it. Then I make it available for other people to read, for their own reasons—maybe so they can better know what they themselves want to read, which they can then try to write. Not counting myself I think Ellen Kennedy is my ideal reader. Sometimes I write what I think she wants to read and it is the same as what I want to read.
If you had to make a kind of Web site-companion to your book, what sites would be on it?
I would have Noah Cicero’s site, The Outsider, because much of Eeeee Eee Eeee is shit-talking (mostly about oneself or the universe) and I like Noah’s style of shit-talking: sarcastic, funny, factual, creative, uncertain, emotional, often calls himself an ass, and directs the harshest shit-talking toward himself.
When you’re wasting time on the web, where do you go?
I open my gmail account and stare at it, then do things with my emails or else gmail chat with people. I used to Google search Lorrie Moore and Joy Williams and other authors I like but eventually read everything that exists on the internet about those people. Now I blogsearch those people, look at facebook and myspace, Google myself a lot and check statcounter a lot.
What’s next for you? Ever consider (or try) writing fiction or poetry that’s meant to live and be read on the web?
Melville House is publishing my second poetry-collection, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, in 2008 and I am working on a second novel that I hope Melville House will publish in 2009. I do have some things only for the internet. Ellen Kennedy and I make books for our press, Ass Hi Books, that are specifically for the internet; and also Ellen and I wrote a novel, Hikikomori, on the internet, on a blog, and it was later published online by Bear Parade.