At the end of this past summer, I had a piece published on Salon about the self-promoting, controversial writer Tao Lin. After it ran, my mom became briefly interested in Lin, asked me a few questions and then forgot about him.
But last week, she was at her local library and saw a copy of Lin’s new novel Richard Yates. She checked it out and brought it home. She is 61, a former high school English teacher, and lover of fine literature. Tonight, we spoke on the phone about her experience with the book so far:
Mom: I’m trying to read the Tao Lin book. But I’m having such a hard time. It’s so upsetting.
Dan: Oh yeah?
M: It’s all shit. I guess I just don’t get it. I really want to get it. I keep thinking maybe it’s existential, but it seems like it’s just meaningless and disturbing.
D: Yeah. Some people think that represents this era. Like he speaks for the current generation.
M: If he does, then the current generation is all about committing suicide, and being unhappy, and talking about what they’re going to eat next, or what they’re going to poop next, or how to kill themselves.
D: I guess so. People say it’s very funny.
M: It isn’t.
M: I’m not sure I can make it until the end.
I’ll post again next time she and I discuss the book.
In an email this morning, I asked my mom if she ever finished the book. Her response:
You won’t believe this but I actually renewed it and I’m trying to finish it. I now identify with the mom in the story, who is trying to break up the weird relationship… you know, the one from whom he keeps hiding by getting under the covers in her daughter’s bed!