Tao Lin, the enigmatic Brooklyn-based author of post-modern novels like Shoplifting from American Apparel, Richard Yates, and EEEEE EEE EEEE, has put more of himself in his upcoming novel Taipei (June 4) than in any of his previous works. Taipei centers on Paul as he navigates the art and literary scene in New York, and it also follows him to Taipei, Taiwan, where he searches for his family roots. Somewhere along the way, there’s also a Vegas wedding, a shop-lifting expedition throughout the South, and massive amounts of drugs. Read on for Lin’s thoughts on Taipei.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: While you were writing this book, you predicted that it’d be your “magnum opus.” Did that pan out?
TAO LIN: Yes, in that I didn’t save anything for a future book. I used, as source material, everything I know or have felt or experienced, or could imagine knowing or feeling or experiencing, up to this point in my life.
How did writing a more autobiographical novel differ from writing your previous works? Was it more difficult?
Writing autobiographically is more difficult because I’m editing a massive first draft of maybe 25,000 pages—my memory—into a 250-page novel. It’s less difficult because I don’t need to write a 25,000-page first draft; it’s already there, in some form, as my memory. Related: I don’t view my memory as accurate or static—and, in autobiographical fiction, my focus is still on creating an effect, not on documenting reality—so “autobiographical,” to me, is closer in meaning to “fiction” than “autobiography.”
What are the advantages of having a large publisher (Vintage) this time around?
I was financially secure in a way I hadn’t been with my previous 6 books, when my advances were $500 to $1500 and I was working in restaurants and libraries while writing. My editor now, at Vintage, Tim O’Connell, is more – is, I feel, completely– accommodating to my artistic desires, allowing me stylistic choices that I hadn’t been allowed before and aren’t conventional. Tim has also been accommodating on last minute edits in a way I haven’t experienced before. The finished book has something like 140 hours more work on it than the galleys, and Tim was very nice to allow edits at that late stage; it was probably annoying and stressful, but Tim remained only kind and helpful and encouraging, for which I’m very grateful.