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September 24, 2009

Book Notes - Tao Lin ("Shoplifting from American Apparel")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Tao Lin's novella Shoplifting from American Apparel is uniquely sad, funny, and understated in all the right ways. In his most autobiographical work yet, Tao Lin has once again created a book that will polarize ctitics, but reward his fans.

At the Bookslut blog, Michael Schaub wrote of the book:

"I'll just say it's somehow both the funniest and the saddest book I've read in a long time, it's his best writing yet, and I strongly urge all of you to pick up a copy when it comes out in a few weeks. Tao is too original to compare to anybody, but his writing is more compelling and true than any young writer I've read in ages; his fiction reminds me of Mary Robison's best work. I recommend him highly."

In his own words, here is Tao Lin's Book Notes music playlist for his novella, Shoplifting from American Apparel:

Shoplifting from American Apparel is a novella about one person's experiences from 2006 to 2008 in a universe of arbitrary nature, unidirectional movement re time, and "death." The last ~25% is set at The Fest 7 in beautiful, temperate, and "laid back" Gainesville, Florida. The Fest is an annual music festival organized by No Idea Records and/or Plan-it-x, featuring mostly punk and folk-punk bands. There is a trailer of a documentary about The Fest 5 or The Fest 6 on YouTube that shows "Pat the Bunny" from Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains playing a song and then someone saying that they don't approve of Pat's message re drugs but that they approve of Pat's message re "not caring about money." In Shoplifting from American Apparel at The Fest 7 characters attend a Ghost Mice daytime/outdoor show and a Star F**king Hipsters midnight show. In someone's house earlier that day characters listen to The Mystery Books' debut full-length recording, Russia, in entirety from a stereo with the band present. In a car the next night characters listen to "Silver Lining" by Rilo Kiley on repeat. I think elsewhere in the book a character listens to Broken Social Scene in order to be "less emo." I think early in the book Samiam's first album in six years, Whatever's Got You Down is released and the main character Sam buys it and likes it and feels impressed by it. The most listened-to CD by Sam, during the time of the book, from 2006 to 2008, is maybe The Falcon's first EP or Neva Dinova's split EP, One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels. Most things mentioned in this essay were edited out of the book and are not in the final draft.

I will look at my iTunes now and see what my most-played song by each band listed above are in order to create the official playlist for Shoplifting from American Apparel. I will review each song.

1. Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains, "Crackhouse House"

Seems like a "classic" to me. It has the lyrics "I think about how I hate a lot of things, but I also hate a lot of other things" which seem complex/emotional/non-rhetorical to me, like the singer attempted to express himself by "simply" allowing his brain to "not have any goals" while allowing himself to "feel emotions without directing them toward anything" and then "seeing what words 'emerge' from that situation." Seems like when most people (including me) try to express themselves it usually is something like "I hate cats" or "[something about not approving of the bourgeoisie]" or "[something sound-based with 'no concrete/emotional meaning' like 'bro bro mcschnickertons']." Johnny Hobo also has lyrics "seems like life's a party where everyone's too f**king smashed to leave" and "I'd be sitting alone at a lunch room in high school if I wasn't sitting alone at a punk show in Asheville."

2. Ghost Mice, "England"

Seems like a "classic" to me. I think Chris Johnston went to Europe when he was around 30 with [one other person I think, maybe the other member of Ghost Mice] then returned to America and wrote a "themed" album of which "England" is the first song. I seem to almost always "begin thinking" about my own trip to England when I listen to this song. My main memory of my trip to England, when I was ~20, was that the tour bus almost "left behind" "some person" when that person didn't come back to the bus in time, in Bath.

3. Star F**king Hipsters, "Empty Lives"

Makes me feel emotional. Seems life-affirming. Has the lyrics "unless you die like all my friends [...] then a lesson might be learned." I like how Stza's voice sounds in this song. I enjoy listening to this song at a loud volume. Other lyrics from this song: "I say to you just try to change / empty lives can fill again / we're not doomed by any fate / and it can never be too late." I would like to read the novel version of this song. Seems like it might be "lightly science fiction" somehow. I think my context and knowledge of Star F**king Hipsters and Stza (from "Leftover Crack"/"Choking Victim" "fame") contribute a lot to what I feel when listening to this song. Stza had a song, maybe six years before this song, with Choking Victim, called "Suicide" where he tells you to commit suicide, "hehe." Just felt an urge I haven't felt before, I think, to type "hehehe" instead of "hehe."

4. The Mystery Books, "The Best Thing"

I feel a specific feeling I've felt many times before when I listen to this song (as opposed, maybe, to #6 in this playlist, which makes me feel a specific feeling I have not felt before except maybe vicariously while watching movies or reading articles where a person's life is "mythologized"). When I listen to this song I feel like it is 2 p.m. and I am driving in Florida and it is sunny and I have no obligations for 3-5 days and had iced coffee 30 minutes ago.

5. Rilo Kiley, "85"

Seems "completely non-irritating/non-annoying" while still seeming like "something emotional." I feel a little surprised I have listened to this song 723 times since I got this MacBook maybe 15 months ago. It is 5 minutes and 18 seconds.

6. Broken Social Scene, "Anthem for a 17-year-old"

I feel "kind of bad" or "vaguely uncomfortable" listening to this song. I think it influences me to think differently about life while I am listening to it. I think it causes me to stop thinking about "the present" or "the future" and start thinking more in terms of "memories" but only "memories" of things that never happened to me it seems.

7. Samiam, "Don't Break Me"

Seems if there were an article I liked about "emo music from the early to mid-90's" this song would be the "centerpiece" of the article. I recommend this song for people who have self-diagnosed "social anxiety disorder."

8. The Falcon, "Huffing the Proverbial Line of the Proverbial Dong or The Blood and the Frog"

Seems highly relistenable to me for some reason. Seems emotional due maybe "simply" to it having layered vocals that are screamed/sung in a "highly convincing" manner. The line "you can dig what you don't understand boy / sometimes it's the only way" seems like it conveys something emotional, but I'm not sure exactly what. I seem to experience the line intuitively and then feel satisfied. I might be misquoting the line. I feel like typing "I hesitate to describe this song as 'intense'" but not confidently enough to type it in its own sentence.

9. Neva Dinova, "Tripped"

Seems like a "classic" to me. Might be my all-time most listened to song. I've had my current MacBook for maybe 15 months and this song has been played 1085 times. "Tripped" seems like the song version of a story-collection or short novel that that would combine the "calm, detached, funny" elements of Honored Guest by Joy Williams with the "emotional, resigned" elements of A Green Light by Matthew Rohrer. Seems like I could have typed any two books that I like in the previous sentence and felt satisfied with the result.

Tao Lin and Shoplifting from American Apparel links:

the author's blog
the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

3:AM review
Anthem review
Bookslut review
Bookslut blog review
Boston Phoenix review
Bust Magazine review
The Faster Times review
Lorna Sore review
Los Angeles Times review
The Quietus review
R-A-B-L-O-G review
Time Out New York review
Village Voice review

BOMBLog interview with the author
Brand X interview with the author
The Broad Set Writing Collective interview with the author
The Daily Beast profile of the author
Dazed Digital interview with the author
FREEwilliamsburg interview with the author
Grub Street profile of the author
HTMLGIANT interview with the author
Impose interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for his novel Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for his novel Eeeee Eee Eeee
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for his short story collection Bed
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for his poetry collection you are a little bit happier than I am
Mochi Magazine interview with the author
New York Magazine profile of the author
No Brand Like Home profile of the author
Stop Smiling interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks