November 17, 2010

Richard Yates :: Tao Lin

Title: Richard Yates
Author: Tao Lin
Read: NYC, JFK > CDG
Format: trade paperback

The fluff on the back of Tao Lin's novel Richard Yates describes Lin as "Kafka for the iPhone generation." That was exactly stupid enough to get me to read it. Also, I liked how it's just a little bit hard to tell who the author is and what the title is from the cover.

Basically, Richard Yates is the story of a young writer and his underaged girlfriend. Their names, amusingly (or maybe annoyingly), are Haley Joel Osment and Dakota Fanning. The two are kind of screwed up and even though it's sometimes disturbing and ridiculous, it's very often sweet as well. By way of plot, not much happens really. And while many serious themes are discussed (statutory rape, eating disorders, suicide, guilt, control, neurosis, depression, etc), they are not explored deeply and certainly not moralistically, which is nice.

Lin's writing is spare and can feel distant, but by the end you feel invested in the characters - and their relationship - nonetheless. When I was a full 25 percent into the book, I still wasn't sure if I liked it or not. Like, maybe the names were too gimmicky or the writing too pretentious or something. I'm glad I stuck it out, though, because I did enjoy Richard Yates, all told. Besides, it's a testamant to Lin's ability that despite these affects, he is still able to produce a story and characters that sustain your interest. And while I'm not rushing out to buy his other novels, I would recommend this one to certain friends.

Different and modern, but not cold:
3 out of 5 stars

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