If someone came up to me and asked, "What author do you feel best represents the generation of people* born between 1983 and 1988?", I would answer, "Tao Lin."
*also suburban and/or middle class
Shoplifting from American Apparel has a loose plot, although it's not really important. Instead, the novella focuses on themes of alienation, boredom, and ineffective communication -- whether it's face-to-face or through g-mail chat.
Oh yes, the g-mail chats. Lin's work wouldn't be the same without them. In fact, his writing is saturated with social technology. Beyond just name-dropping Facebook, Myspace (this novella was published in 2009, but just this reference has already dated it), and Flickr, it's also feels electronic in other ways -- the short, Twitter-like descriptions, or showing emotion through "facial expressions", like emoticons.
But for the most part it's just funny. Hilarious. The kind of humor that anyone who has ever laughed watching "Two-and-a-Half Men" probably wouldn't find humorous. Which if you have, that's fine. To each his/her own. Just don't buy this book.
"You know those people that get up every day, and do things," said Luis.
"I'm going to eat cereal even though I'm not hungry," said Sam.
"And are real proactive," said Luis. "And like getting things done, and never quit their jobs. Those people suck."
"My face is going to float away from my skull," said Sam. "To emo music."
"Luis, what are we."
"Fucked," said Luis. "Was that like a cheer. What are we! Fucked. Our shit can be studied by an anthropologist 1,000 years from now to know what we ate."
"Indian food," said Sam.
"They will say 'Sam had a vegan diet of good food and wine and Indian food. Luis ingested Waffle House.'"
He lay on his mattress and thought about writing a novel about working hard and becoming rich and living alone in a giant house in Florida. Loneliness and depression would be defeated with a king-size bed, an expensive stereo system, a drum set, a bike, an unlimited supply of organic produce and coconuts, maybe calmly playing an online role-playing game. Each day the person in the novel would lay in sunlight on the living room carpet listening to music in "surround-sound" while drinking iced-coffee. At night the person would ride a bike around the neighborhood or drink smoothies while taking very long baths.
Someone on the street messed up a trick on their skateboard.
"You can't skate," should Audrey.
"What," said the person skating away.
Audrey shouted "Obama" at the person.
"That was good," said Sam. "You dominated him a lot."
Also, it turns out SFAA is being adapted into a film!
Brad Warner will be playing the part of Sam. I've read two of Warner's books: Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth about Reality, and Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate: A Trip Through Death, Sex, Divorce, and Spiritual Celebrity in Search of the True Dharma (thank you, CTRL+C, CTRL+V). If those sound interesting, you should check out his blog: http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com/