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September 7, 2010

Book Notes - Tao Lin ("Richard Yates")

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 new novel Richard Yates is an offbeat love story featuring Haley Joel Osment and Dakota Fanning. With prose filled with Gmail chats and text messages, Lin is an expert in showing his story instead of just telling it, and Richard Yates is another captivating book from this talented and inventive young author.

Thanks to Tao Lin for contributing his sixth essay in the Book Notes series.

Time Out New York wrote of the book:

"Lin's prose is sometimes described as sparse, but that word doesn't quite do his work justice. His lean and often maniacal sentences propel the work forward with a slanted momentum. What first seems like a stock tale of romance gone sour evolves into a parable about the fickleness of human desire and the futility of detachment when it comes to love."

In his own words, here is Tao Lin's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Richard Yates:

Richard Yates references Björk, Get Up Kids, Hot Water Music, Kill Your Idols, Radiohead, Rancid, The Weakerthans. An earlier draft referenced Morning Glory. Richard Yates has an index that says on which page each band/musician is referenced. The main characters in Richard Yates are Haley Joel Osment and Dakota Fanning. Richard Yates mentions three songs specifically.

1. "Tripped" by Neva Dinova (page 20, 123)

Haley Joel Osment's favorite song for most of Richard Yates (~April 2006 – Thanksgiving 2006) is maybe "Tripped." He and Dakota Fanning listen to it together the first time they are in her room. Later Dakota Fanning records a "cover" of it for Haley Joel Osment using a tape recorder. Haley Joel Osment usually listens to "Tripped" with "Poison" and "Get Back" and "Spring Cleaning," all by Neva Dinova ("Spring Cleaning" is written by Conor Oberst but sung by Neva Dinova's singer), sometimes on a playlist with only those four songs (referenced in Richard Yates as his "four favorite songs").

2. "Sweet Avenue" by Jets to Brazil (page 60)

Haley Joel Osment listens to "Sweet Avenue" via earphones/iPod while walking on the side of a street and then a field between a grocery store and a parking lot of school buses in rural New Jersey ~3:30AM after Dakota Fanning has walked away from him in a somewhat confusing, outwardly calm, nearly idle manner. "Sweet Avenue" is about not feeling bad about life anymore because of having met someone, I think. Haley Joel Osment chooses to listen to it at this moment because, I think, he feels that its calmly emotional, non-annoying, passively life-affirming characteristics will help him think about things in a grateful, unrushed, vaguely enjoyable manner. Its lyrics include "thank you for making me see there's a life in me" and "cross-town train to you / now all these tastes improve / through the view that comes with you." The "cross-town train to you" line has relevance to Haley Joel Osment because he and Dakota Fanning visit each other via ~2-hour train rides. Haley Joel Osment's situation while listening to "Sweet Avenue" seems to be almost the opposite of the situation described in "Sweet Avenue," in that a relationship is possibly ending, causing Haley Joel Osment, I think, to think about his situation with more appreciation for having "at least" experienced with Dakota Fanning a period where their life changed, in a desirable manner, he thinks, due to having met each other. Haley Joel Osment usually puts "Sweet Avenue" on playlists directly before or after "Sea Anemone" (also by Jets to Brazil), which is also calmly emotional and non-annoying, to Haley Joel Osment, but seems to be "set" in a time when a relationship has ended and has lyrics about idly thinking about hanging oneself, I think, on a shower rod ("now I'm making out the shapes / like the shower rod—can it take my weight?").

3. "Jackass" by The Vandals (page 110)

Haley Joel Osment listens to "Jackass" on repeat while sitting on a metal, bench-like thing in sunlight eating a salad outside NYU's business school July 2006. He likes "Jackass," in part, because it seems to have vulnerable, emotional, maybe-autobiographical lyrics about a relationship where, at one point, someone is "on tour" while someone is "alone, wondering just what you did with your phone." The chorus—

"Keep playing. I'll stay in."
I can't see myself saying
"Keep playing. I'll stay in. I'll be OK."

—seems to convey that the singer (possibly singing from the perspective of someone else, in sympathy or "understanding," directing the lyrics toward himself, as he is in a band that has "toured" often, which causes the song to seem "even more" emotional to Haley Joel Osment) is contemplating whether or not to remain in the relationship and currently feeling like not remaining, if its characteristics don't change, which has relevance to Haley Joel Osment and Dakota Fanning's situation throughout most of Richard Yates. At the end of the song the singer sings "I guess I'm just a big jackass / I guess I'm just a big jackass" in a loud, melodic, rhythmic voice. The last line is "I'm a big jackass" and is sung in a quieter and "looser," somewhat "mournful," weakly/non-sarcastically/"a little humorously" authoritative voice, I think, based on my re-listening of it via YouTube for this essay.

Tao Lin and Richard Yates links:

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

The Blue Bookcase review
Chamber Four review review
I Run From Bears review
JMWW Blog review
Known Unknowns review
The Nervous Breakdown review
The Open End review
The Rumpus review
Thought Catalog review
Time Out New York review
The Well-Read Wife review

Associated Press profile of the author
Codex interview with the author
The Cult interview with the author
Interview interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for Bed by the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy by the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for Eeeee Eee Eeee by the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for Shoplifting from American Apparel by the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for you are a little bit happier than i am by the author
Nylon profile of the author
New York Observer profile of the author
The Rumpus interview with the author
Salon profile of the author
Thirsty Days NY interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists