Tao Lin

Tao Lin (林韜) is an American novelist, poet, essayist, short-story writer, and artist. He has published three novels, a novella, two books of poetry, a collection of short stories and a memoir as well as an extensive assortment of online content. His third novel, Taipei, was published by Vintage on June 4, 2013.[1] His nonfiction book, Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change, was published by Vintage on May 1, 2018. His fourth novel, Leave Society, was published by Vintage on August 3, 2021.

Tao Lin
Photo of Tao Lin
BornJuly 2, 1983
Alexandria, Virginia
OccupationNovelist, poet, journalist
GenreLiterary fiction, nonfiction, poetry, Kmart realism, alt-lit
Notable worksTaipei, Bed, Richard Yates, Shoplifting from American Apparel
SpouseMegan Boyle (separated)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese林韜
Simplified Chinese林韬
Hanyu PinyinLín Tāo

Personal lifeEdit

Lin was born in Alexandria, Virginia, to Taiwanese parents and grew up in suburbs in and around Orlando, Florida, including Apokpa.[2] with two toy poodles, named Binky and Tabby.[3] Lin has one brother, who lives in New York; their father is a retired physics professor and entrepreneur.[4][5][6][7] He attended Lake Howell High School, where he played snare drum in the school's marching band. Lin moved from Florida to New York City for college in 2001. He graduated from New York University in 2005 with a B.A. in journalism.[8]

Lin supported himself after college by stealing batteries and selling them on eBay, by working at New York University's Bobst Library, by working at New York Society Library on the Upper East Side, and by working at Angelica Kitchen, an organic vegan restaurant in Manhattan.[9][10] He quit his job after selling shares of the future royalties of his novel Richard Yates online in 2009.[11] After Richard Yates, Lin got a literary agent, Bill Clegg, who sold his next book, Taipei, to a larger publisher, Vintage Books, which has published his subsequent work.[12] Lin moved to Hawaii in January 2020.[13]

Lin has lectured on his writing and art at Vassar College, Kansas City Art Institute, Columbia College[which?], UNC Chapel Hill, and other universities and museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and the New Museum. In 2012 and in 2015 he taught a graduate course at Sarah Lawrence College called "The Contemporary Short Story."[14]

In 2014, the website Jezebel posted screenshots of tweets by Lin's former girlfriend, writer E.R. Kennedy, alleging abuse, statutory rape, and plagiarism. The allegations stem from 2005, when Kennedy and Lin dated. At the time, Kennedy was 16 and Lin was 22.[15] Kennedy deleted the tweets and asked Jezebel to take down the article, a request Jezebel ignored. Lin responded on Facebook, denying the allegations.[16]

Critical responseEdit

Lin's writing has attracted negative and positive criticism from various publications. Gawker once called him "maybe perhaps the single most irritating person we've ever had to deal with",[17] though he was later "pardoned". After reading this criticism, Lin retaliated by completely covering the front door of the Gawker office building with stickers bearing Britney Spears's name.[18] Later, Gawker published a piece Lin had written.[19] L Magazine wrote, "We've long been deeply irked by Lin's vacuous posturing and 'I know you are but what am I' dorm-room philosophizing".[20] Sam Anderson wrote in New York Magazine, "Dismissing Lin, however, ignores the fact that he is deeply smart, funny, and head-over-heels dedicated in exactly the way we like our young artists to be."[21] Miranda July has called Lin's work "moving and necessary."[22]

The Atlantic described Lin as having a "fairly staggering" knack for self-promotion. The same article read, "there's something unusual about a writer being so transparent, so ready to tell you every insignificant detail of a seemingly eventful day, so aware of his next novel's word count, yet also remaining so opaque, mysterious, 'inscrutable.'"[23] In n+1, critic Frank Guan called Lin "the first great male Asian author of American descent."[24]

Lin's work has been praised in the UK, including positive reviews from The Guardian[25][26] and the Times Literary Supplement, which called Lin was "a daring, urgent voice for a malfunctioning age",[27] and a 2010 career overview by the London Review of Books.[28]

Since 2013, Lin's work has been associated with the mode of writing called "autofiction."[29] Fellow autofictioners have praised his work. Ben Lerner said, "One thing I like about Tao’s writing is how beside the point for me ‘liking’ it feels—it’s a frank depiction of the rhythm of a contemporary consciousness or lack of consciousness and so it has a power that bypasses those questions of taste entirely. Like it or not, it has the force of the real.”[30] Of Trip, Sheila Heti wrote, "This book has changed how I understand myself on a cellular level. It’s a superbly researched, moving, and formally inventive quest for re-enchantment, and Tao Lin’s most compelling and profound book yet."[31]


you are a little bit happier than i am (2006)Edit

In November 2006 Lin's first book, a poetry collection titled you are a little bit happier than i am, was published. It was the winner of Action Books' December Prize and has been a small-press bestseller.[32][33]

Eeeee Eee Eeee & Bed (2007)Edit

In May 2007 Lin's first novel, Eeeee Eee Eeee, and first story collection, Bed, were published simultaneously. Of the stories, Jennifer Bassett wrote in KGB Lit Journal, "In structure and tone, they have the feel of early Lorrie Moore and Deborah Eisenberg. Like Moore's characters, there are a lot of plays on language and within each story, a return to the same images or ideas—or jokes. And like Moore, most of these characters live in New York, are unemployed or recently employed, and are originally from somewhere more provincial (Florida in Lin's case, Wisconsin in Moore's). However, Lin knows to dig a little deeper into his characters—something we see in Moore's later stories, but less so in her early ones."[34]

The books were ignored by most mainstream media but have since been referenced in The Independent (which called Eeeee Eee Eeee "a wonderfully deadpan joke"[35]) and The New York Times, which called Lin a "deadpan literary trickster"[36] in reference to Eeeee Eee Eeee.

cognitive-behavioral therapy (2008)Edit

In May 2008 Lin's second poetry collection, cognitive-behavioral therapy was published.[37] The poem "room night" from this collection was anthologized in Wave Books' State of the Union.[38] A French translation was published by Au Diable Vauvert in 2012.[citation needed]

Shoplifting from American Apparel (2009)Edit

In September 2009 Lin's novella Shoplifting from American Apparel was published to mixed reviews. The Guardian wrote, "Trancelike and often hilarious… Lin's writing is reminiscent of early Douglas Coupland, or early Bret Easton Ellis, but there is also something going on here that is more profoundly peculiar, even Beckettian."[25] The Village Voice called it a "fragile, elusive book".[39] Bookslut wrote, "it shares an affected childishness with bands like The Moldy Peaches and it has a put-on weirdness reminiscent of Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You."[40] Time Out New York wrote, "Writing about being an artist makes most contemporary artists self-conscious, squeamish and arch. Lin, however, appears to be comfortable, even earnest, when his characters try to describe their aspirations (or their shortcomings) [...] purposefully raw."[41] The San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "Tao Lin's sly, forlorn, deadpan humor jumps off the page [...] will delight fans of everyone from Mark Twain to Michelle Tea."[42] The Los Angeles Times wrote, "Camus' The Stranger or sociopath?";[43] the Austin Chronicle called it "scathingly funny" and wrote that "it might just be the future of literature."[44] Another reviewer described it as "a vehicle...for self-promotion."[45]

In a December 2009 episode of KCRW's Bookworm, Michael Silverblatt called the novella "the purest example so far of the minimalist aesthetic as it used to be enunciated"[46] and Lin described the novella's style as deliberately "concrete, with all the focus on surface details, with no sentences devoted to thoughts or feelings, and I think that results in a kind of themelessness, that, in its lack of focus on anything else, the theme becomes, to me, the passage of time."[46] In the same month, clothing retailer Urban Outfitters began selling Shoplifting from American Apparel in its stores.[47]

Richard Yates (2010)Edit

Lin's second novel, Richard Yates, was published on September 7, 2010, by Melville House,[48].

In The New York Times Book Review, Charles Bock called the book "more interesting as a concept than as an actual narrative," adding,

Richard Yates channels the author’s obvious creative abilities into an exploration of illicit love and obsession. Haley Joel Osment, 22, a writer living in New York, is flirting with Dakota Fanning, a troubled 16-year-old girl in New Jersey. (As their communications begin online, the celebrity monikers are presumably screen names.) The novel begins: “‘I’ve only had the opportunity to hold a hamster once,’ said Dakota Fanning on Gmail chat. ‘Its paws were so tiny. I think I cried a little.’” This opening will charm the innocent hearts of some readers; those less amused might find it cloying and gimmicky ... The novel’s voice is deliberately monotonous. Chats, e-mails, text messages, phone and in-person conversations — all are absorbed seamlessly into the body of Lin’s text, a smart way of portraying the world in which he’s come of age, where we’re connected all the time and, regardless of the device or medium, all forms of communication seem alike. But this perspective also betrays a blasé cynicism, one that takes distinctions and details for granted. Descriptions are minimal here, and landscapes stripped down. It’s no accident, one senses, that Lin name-drops Hemingway and Beckett. But as with the Yates reference, it’s worth asking to what end ... By the time I reached the last 50 pages, each time the characters said they wanted to kill themselves, I knew exactly how they felt."[49]

In a review in The National Post, Lindsey Bourgon wrote:

For a short novel, Tao Lin's Richard Yates has an extensive index chronicling every seemingly unimportant reference, from facial expressions (confident, neutral, worried) to foods eaten (flaxseed, Subway, ice cream). It's a bit of a gimmick and so is Lin. Minimalism is his style. He uses few adjectives, the dialogue is stiff. He doesn't use question marks. These stylistic tics define Lin more than his writing ... Dakota Fanning and Haley Joel Osment communicate mainly via Gmail chat, and their separation between New York City and New Jersey is the overarching and unsolv-able problem in the relationship. But in true Lin style, the stress of a long-distance relationship is reduced to a throw-away sentence: "Haley Joel Osment said, 'Soon we won't talk anymore. Life is terrible.' " But as the book unfolds, it's easy to regard the painfully blunt discussion as an astute rendering of young love. The conversations make no sense and are filled with small inside jokes; they'll talk about anything from eating disorders to moving in together in quick missives that don't sound real. But in a world of relationships and Gmail chat, that is authentic. Lin is the ultimate hipster, and you'll hate and love him for it. His work is so minimalist and so literal, it can make for uncomfortable reading. You want to stop reading it, but you also want to like it, you want to be part of the club that understands it.[50]

Writing in The Boston Globe, Danielle Dreilinger wrote:

By all rights, this sixth book by Tao Lin ought to be dreadful. It has an unnecessary index, protagonists named after child stars, and a title that pays homage to a famous novelist who has no concrete connection with the book ... But "Richard Yates" is neither pretentious nor sneering nor reflexively hip. It is simply a focused, moving, and rather upsetting portrait of two oddballs in love ... These characters have lives of their own. At first, the relationship is magical. They steal vegan sushi from Whole Foods, watch art films, and spend hours on Gmail chat. He comes from New York to visit her in Jersey in a town so boring that going to the all-night Price Chopper constitutes entertainment. They sit on a steel railroad bridge and watch kids play. She falls asleep at the Price Chopper cafe while he watches. Even chatting about killing themselves is romantic ... As time passes, the relationship starts to slip its traces. Lin is brilliant at capturing the moments in a relationship where everything turns bad at once ... Though Osment means to help, not hurt, his narcissism is devastating: Laboring under his self-improvement regime, Fanning becomes more and more self-destructive.[51]

Other reviews were less positive.[52]

Taipei (2013)Edit

On February 23, 2013, Publishers Weekly awarded Taipei a starred review, predicting it would be Lin's "breakout" book and calling it "a novel about disaffection that's oddly affecting" and "a book without an ounce of self-pity, melodrama, or posturing."[53] The same month, Bret Easton Ellis tweeted, "With Taipei Tao Lin becomes the most interesting prose stylist of his generation, which doesn't mean that Taipei isn't a boring novel".[54]

Taipei was published by Vintage on June 4, 2013, to mostly positive reviews. Novelist Benjamin Lytal, writing in the New York Observer, called it Lin's "modernist masterpiece",[55] adding, "[W]e should stop calling Tao Lin the voice of his generation. Taipei, his new novel, has less to do with his generation than with the literary tradition of Knut Hamsun, Ernest Hemingway, and Robert Musil." According to Slate, "Taipei casts a surprisingly introspective eye on the spare, 21st-century landscape Lin has such a knack for depicting".[56]

New York Times critic Dwight Garner wrote, "I loathe reviews in which a critic claims to have love-hate feelings about a work of art. It's a way of having no opinion at all. But I love and hate Taipei".[57]

On June 18, critic Emily Witt wrote in The Daily Beast:[58]

Taipei is exactly the kind of book I hoped Tao Lin would one day write. He is one of the few fiction writers around who engages with contemporary life, rather than treating his writing online as existing in opposition to or apart from the hallowed analog space of the novel. He's consistently good for a few laughs and writes in a singular style already much imitated by his many sycophants on the Internet. Some people like Tao Lin for solely these reasons, or treat him as a sort of novelty or joke. But Lin can also produce the feelings of existential wonder that all good novelists provoke. His writing reveals the hyperbole in conversational language that we use, it seems, to make up for living lives where equanimity and well-adjustment are the most valued attributes, where human emotions are pathologized into illness: we do not fall in love, we become "obsessed"; we do not dislike, we "hate". We manipulate ourselves chemically to avoid acting "crazy."

On June 30, in The New York Times Book Review, Clancy Martin wrote:

His writing is weird, upsetting, memorable, honest—and it's only getting better [...] But I didn't anticipate Taipei, his latest, which is, to put it bluntly, a gigantic leap forward. Here we have a serious, first-rate novelist putting all his skills to work. Taipei is a love story, and although it's Lin's third novel it's also, in a sense, a classic first novel: it's semi-autobiographical (Lin has described it as the distillation of 25,000 pages of memory) and it's a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story about a young man who learns, through love, that life is larger than he thought it was.

On July 5 The New York Times Book Review awarded Taipei an Editors' Choice[59] distinction. It was the only paperback on the list for the week.

On KCRW's "Bookworm", in a conversation with Lin,[60] Michael Silverblatt called it "The most moving depiction of the way we live now," calling it "unbearably moving."

Taipei was included on best book of the year lists by the Times Literary Supplement,[61] Village Voice,[62] Slate,[63] Salon, Bookforum,[64] The Week, Maisonneuve,[65] and Complex,[66] among others.

High Resolution, a film adaptation of Taipei, was released in 2018.[citation needed]

Selected Tweets (2015)Edit

On June 15, 2015, Short Flight/Long Drive Books published a collaborative double-book called Selected Tweets by Lin and poet Mira Gonzalez. The book features selections from eight years of their tweets at nine different Twitter accounts, as well as visual art by each author, footnotes, and "Extras". Emma Kolchin-Miller, writing in the Columbia Spectator, described the book as featuring "a selection of bleak, depressed, disturbing, funny, and personal tweets that create a fragmented narrative and show how Twitter can serve as a platform for art, storytelling, and connection."[67] Andrea Longini, writing for Electric Literature, opined: "Although Twitter in name implies a kind of chatter or 'twittering,' Tao Lin and Mira Gonzalez have elevated the medium into an art form with the power to transmit authentic observations."[68]

Trip (2018)Edit

In May 2018, Lin's Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change, a nonfiction account of his experiences with psychedelic drugs, was published by Vintage Books. Much of the book is devoted to Lin's continuing fascination with the life and thought of Terence McKenna, as well as an introduction to McKenna's ex-wife Kathleen Harrison.[69]

Trip was a Los Angeles Times bestseller.[70] In Scientific American, John Horgan wrote, “If an aspirant asks for an example of experimental science writing, I’ll recommend Trip. The book veers from excruciatingly candid autobiography to biography (of McKenna) to investigative journalism…to interview-based journalism to philosophical speculation to first-person accounts of the effects of DMT and Salvia.”[71]

Leave Society (2021)Edit

Lin's fourth novel, Leave Society, was published on August 3, 2021. An early review in theWashington Examiner called it "the most deeply human book of the year." [72] In another review, Spike Art Magazine, Dean Kissick praised what he called the novel's thesis, "that nothing is as it appears, and we don’t understand anything." Kissick wrote that Lin's writing in the novel "leaps across orders of magnitude, from electrons spinning round, to the creation of life on a microscopic scale, the sperm welcomed in by eggs and the fusing of gametes, to the collapse of the universe. He continued:

It’s a meta-autofiction that takes on the grandest of themes – the metaphysical structure of the cosmos, the journey of a soul across the aeons, the space beyond death – in the hopes of understanding them, and also of creating feelings of awe and wonder in the reader."[73]

In a review published online on the book's release date and later in the print edition of The New York Times Book Review, Christine Smallwood wrote of the book's main character:

Li has left behind speed, despair and his belief in Western medicine. (He refuses steroid shots for his back pain.) But what he is really recovering from is existentialism, the idea that life has no meaning other than what we give it. He now believes that the world has an inherent purpose ... Stylistically, the book is artful, even radical ... Despite, or perhaps because of, its virtues, the novel doesn’t hold the reader in its thrall. It meanders, linking scenes of low-key bickering in a gentle ebb and flow of harmony and disharmony. It doesn’t seem to mind if you put it down ... But the novel has a vision, however cracked, an idea connected to its form, which is more than I can say for most books.[74]

In a Bookforum review, Adam Wilson wrote:

If Lin’s earlier books felt voiced by a human resigned to becoming an automaton, then this one speaks in a voice of resistance, albeit a deluded one ... The generous read is that Lin’s poking fun at the half-baked ontological musings of a dude who’s taken way too much acid. But my sense is that Lin expects readers to give Li’s theory of the 'overmind' serious consideration ... For this kind of novel to work, however, the tensions usually generated by plot must be replaced by internal ones, and the novel’s ideas must be stimulating enough to sustain a reader’s interest. Unfortunately, here, there’s nothing to push up against Li’s zealotry, or to suggest that his druggy epiphanies are anything but profound.[75]

In a review in The New Yorker, Andrea Long Chu wrote:

The first sentence of almost every chapter contains at least one number, often several, like a medical record: 'Thirty tabs of LSD arrived on day thirty-five.' This kind of prose can be elegant; it can also feel like dieting ... But it’s most interesting to consider the book’s flat affect as a curious, sidewise effect of Li’s linguistic relationship to his parents ... There is a translated quality to this kind of writing, as if Lin were rendering Mandarin word for word; in fact, given Li’s propensity for audio recordings, this is likely exactly what happened ... the effect he’s created is a kind of fastidious plotlessness, one whose accuracy to life, affected or not, has the ambivalent virtue of being, like life itself, mostly boring.[76]

In a review at 3 Quarks Daily, David Kordahl wrote:

Leave Society, starring Li as a stand-in for Tao Lin, chronicles Li’s attempts to cure himself from society-induced sicknesses ... In the novel, Lin’s proxy, Li, visits his parents in Taiwan and cares for their poodle, Dudu. He exchanges emails with his mom. He plays with his nephew. He reads books and thinks about them. He keeps detailed records, wondering how this will all fit into his book. Which is all to the good, but only because I have left out the objectionable parts. The character Li—and, by extension, the writer Lin—has turned away from reckless drug use and toward reckless knowledge. (To be clear, Li has not turned away from drug use full stop—his continual use of LSD and cannabis, and his continual denial of this use, forms one of the book’s running gags.) Li is a serious reader, but not a critical one. When he finds a book like Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, he applies its lessons immediately, and is frustrated when his parents fail to follow suit ... The success of Lin’s autofiction is in how well he is able to describe his thoughts without insisting that he is always right. [77]

Leave Society also received pre-publication reviews in Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly.[78][79]



  • this emotion was a little e-book, (bear parade, 2006)
  • you are a little bit happier than i am, (Action Books, 2006)
  • cognitive-behavioral therapy, (Melville House, 2008)




  • Today The Sky is Blue and White with Bright Blue Spots and a Small Pale Moon and I Will Destroy Our Relationship Today, (bear parade, 2006)
  • Bed (Melville House, 2007)



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External linksEdit