Tao Lin, autor de las novelas Shoplifting From American Apparel y Richard Yates, se ha convertido en el paradigma de los escritores -internet. No solo venden por su página web decenas de cosas que tienen que ver con sus escritura (como libretas moleskine con notas y hasta dibujitos en páginas), con lo que llega a ganar casi 700 dólares mensuales, sino que además cada una de sus actividades es replicada por internet y sus seguidores. Salon.com cuenta la historia de esta nueva forma de tener visibilidad en literatura.
What fame Lin has already achieved is a testament to his ability to master viral and unconventional publicity techniques. In July 2008, Lin sold six shares of ?Richard Yates? online. The winning bidders gave him $2,000 each in exchange for 10 percent of the domestic profits that come from ?Yates.? As he says with a laugh, ?If it doesn?t make very much, that?s their loss.? Inevitably, Stephen Elliott?s Lin-adoring online outlet the Rumpus named ?Richard Yates? the August selection for its newly launched book club, four months before the book?s publication. James Frey has endorsed ?Yates,? and the New York Observer recently published a profile of Lin written in his own distinctive style.
In early November 2009, Lin held an ?experimental contest? on his blog that invited users to bid a certain amount of money via Paypal ? any amount they chose ? on a prize package of Tao Lin goodies. The catch: Lin?s prizes would go to the highest bidder, but entrants would not get their money back if their bid lost. Lin posted a video that showed off the prizes: A ?unique drawing of a Sasquatch holding a hamburger,? which he notes has the ?crying hamster stamp of authenticity? (a small doodle Lin puts on all his artwork and also signs books with); a Tao Lin T-shirt; an unpublished draft of a short story; an error-filled galley copy of ?Shoplifting From American Apparel?; and a small Moleskine journal filled with Lin?s notes. ?You can find out exactly what I do by getting this and looking at my to-do list,? he declares in the video. One finds all of this thoroughly ridiculous until learning that the last Moleskine notebook he sold on eBay went for $80. He is making real money off of this shwag. Lin says, ?I probably make $700 a month from selling stupid things on my blog.?
Beyond raising funds and buzz for his antics ? and unlike the majority of successful novelists ? Lin is also willing to use the Web as a tool for engaging with his readers directly. In a recent HTMLGIANT comment thread, someone under the user name ?Attractive skinny girl? asked Lin for his phone number. He posted it, no hesitation. The average fiction lover can?t just shoot John Irving an e-mail, or friend request Martin Amis on Facebook. They can, however, contact Tao Lin quite easily, and in most cases he?ll respond
(?) The loneliness could be attributed to the Internet. Lin and his literary peers spend hours and hours online, and although doing so fosters a sense of connectedness, it is equally isolating. No matter how many fans or fellow writers Lin ?meets? online, at the end of the day it?s still him, sitting at his laptop alone. Any moments of delight or engagement that the Internet prompts are separated by longer stretches of boredom, as implied by the title of a short story by Brandon Scott Gorrell, a member of Lin?s online literary gang. The story is called ?Minimizing and Maximizing Mozilla Firefox Repeatedly.?
Even an angry Amazon.com reviewer ?Visa Dimo Kogan,? in a review of ?Shoplifting,? admits: ?He?s accurate in his portrayal of the apathetic, technological, and depressing generation that I?m sadly a part of,? though the review continues, ?If this is the literature of our generation, then I?d rather die in a car crash.? This is met with a single, symbolic response from another reviewer, Jesse Vaughan: ?Better buckle up, bro.?
Vaughan?s tersely funny defense is representative of the Tao Lin faithful. Lin?s readers come to his aid on message boards and blogs all over the Web because they feel that for better or worse, his books represent the moment. They share his loneliness. Time spent on the Web remains a solitary act. And while New York City cannot be credited with the invention of young angst, it does serve as a city metaphor for the Internet. It?s urban loneliness, and Lin has captured it for his readers.
On the night before last Halloween, Lin read at the Center for Performance Research on New York?s Lower East Side. Out in the lobby after the event, he leaned against a wall with a bottle of Brooklyn Lager, drinking in the scene around him. It was brief, awkward respite from the realm in which he?s most comfortable: sitting at his computer. One could imagine what happened next. Shortly after the reading, he left the event without fanfare, then hurried home to connect with those readers who hunger for his presence and voice.