Taipei Metro – Tao Lin’s iPhone Photos of Taipei
For the past couple of months, in celebration of last week’s release of Tao Lin’s latest novel, Taipei, we have been featuring a weekly selection of photos taken by the author during his recent trip to Taipei, Taiwan. While there, he took thousands of pictures with his iPhone, pictures which he has divided into albums titled things like “Taipei fashion,” “Taipei carbs,” “Taipei babies,” and “Taipei signs,” among others. In the final installment, Tao takes us inside Taipei’s extensive subway system.
Taipei is out now from Vintage and you can buy it here. To read an excerpt from the novel that we published a while back, click here.
A Few Impressions: ‘Strangers on a Train’, by James Franco
One of the strategies that Patricia Highsmith employs in her first novel, Strangers on a Train, is to bounce the narrative between two characters. As the title suggests, these two strangers, Guy and Bruno, meet on a train at the beginning of the book and discuss killing people in each other’s lives in order to duck suspicions based on motives. Guy doesn’t take Bruno’s suggestion seriously, but after Bruno kills Guy’s wife, Bruno pressures Guy to murder his father. The structure of the book allows Highsmith to jump from one character to another and put them in completely different parts of the country, but because of their relationship and the vacillation between the two storylines, they feel as if they are very close to each other. It is almost a split screen effect, where they are living their separate lives distinct from each other, but the parallel structure brings them close together. It feels as if they’re in the same frame.
The linear form of the book prevents the stories from being played at the exact same time as a split screen might in a film (although split screens are rarely used this way in movies). But the two threads are woven in such a way that causes the reader to experience the stories as if they were happening simultaneously, at least that is the understanding conveyed. This technique causes the reader to go through one thread at a time, injecting a force of energy into the narrative. When each section is taken up again, it is resumed in the midst of the most crucial moments for that character. The back-and-forth transitions trim the fat and streamline the storytelling.
The 2013 Fiction Issue has arrived! Here’s Forked River Roadside Shrine, South Jersey by Joyce Carol Oates
Sometimes hearing them makes me want to bawl. Sometimes it just pisses me off. Why they can’t say five fucking words without dragging God into it.
Like goddamn fucking God gives a shit about what happened to me, or gives a shit about what happened to any of them, which they will discover for themselves. Jesus, I have to laugh, or bawl. Look at those girls’ faces.
The first thing you see from the road is the goddamn cross.
Three-foot-high, homemade cross painted Day-Glo white.
And on this cross in red letters where the paint kind of drips down like smeared lipstick:
December 4, 1991–May 30, 2009
(Once you’re a deceased person all kinds of embarrassing shit can be said about you. You can’t defend yourself.)
At the foot of the cross are (laminated) photos, mostly iPhone pictures Chloe took of me, and pictures of Chloe and me, and me and the guys, and my mom and me, etc. There’s pots of flowers—real flowers—that have got to be watered or they will wither and die. And hanging from the cross is one of my sneakers—size 12, Nike.
Yesterday Tao told us via email that he has “confirmed probably 15 ppl plan on using it [the book launch] as a chance to get really fucked up” and “several ppl have planned to die from drugs that night also.”
Tao Lin’s Book Launch Is Tonight in Brooklyn
James Franco Looks at American Psycho Ten Years Later/Twenty Years Later
I listened to the American Psycho audiobook recently. It was released in 2011 and is narrated by Pablo Schreiber, who performs his task quite well. He doesn’t clown it up, or put on too many funny voices for the different characters. It’s subtle, with just enough inflection to distinguish each bit of dialogue. He delivers everything with the cool factuality that Patrick Bateman demands.
If Bret Easton Ellis is, as many believe, literature’s enfant terrible of 1980s disenchanted youth, it’s only because he’s also secretly a warlock capable of conjuring multivalent spells of celebration and castigation that subvert the meanings and value of sex, money, consumerism, and entertainment. It only follows thatAmerican Psycho is (at least for now) the pinnacle of his art: the dark-hearted swansong of an era that sums up its subject matter with a perfect balance of breadth and incisiveness. Gross satire delivered with a hyperrealistic technique.
An Excerpt from Tao Lin’s Taipei
Over the past month or so we’ve been publishing a whole slew of iPhone photos Tao Lin took on a recent visit to Taipei, the place from which his new novel takes its title. Pictures are all well and good (and we’ll be publishing another batch of them tomorrow), but to give you a real idea of what Tao’s new book is like, we thought it fitting to publish an excerpt. This is the first glimpse of Taipei Vintage has released, and it concerns the main character, Paul, and his difficult upbringing in Florida.
Taipei will be released on June 4 from Vintage and is available for pre-order now.
Paul’s father was 28 and Paul’s mother was 24 when they alone (out of a combined fifteen to twenty-five siblings) left Taiwan for America. Paul was born in Virginia six years later, in 1983, when his brother was 7. Paul was 3 when the family moved to Apopka, a pastoral suburb near Orlando, Florida.
Paul cried the first day of preschool for around ten minutes after his mother, who was secretly watching and also crying, seemed to have left. It was their first time apart. Paul’s mother watched as the principal cajoled Paul into interacting with his classmates, among whom he was well liked and popular, if a bit shy and “disengaged, sometimes,” said one of the high school students who worked at the preschool, which was called the Discovery Center. Each day, after that, Paul cried less and transitioned more abruptly from crying to interacting with classmates, and by the middle of the second week he didn’t cry anymore. At home, where mostly only Mandarin was spoken, Paul was loud and either slug-like or, his mother would say in English, “hyperactive,” rarely walking to maneuver through the house, only crawling, rolling like a log, sprinting, hopping, or climbing across sofas, counters, tables, chairs, etc. in a game called “don’t touch the ground.” Whenever motionless and not asleep or sleepy, lying on carpet in sunlight, or in bed with eyes open, bristling with undirectionalized momentum, he would want to intensely sprint in all directions simultaneously, with one unit of striving, never stopping. He would blurrily anticipate this unimaginably worldward action, then burst off his bed to standing position, or make a loud noise and violently spasm, or jolt from the carpet into a sprint, flailing his arms, feeling always incompletely satisfied.
Please Start Banning Books Again
It’s been a while since anything besides people and their weapons seemed dangerous in America. There’s a lot of attention—and a great deal of money—spent on determining where the next physical threat is, and how that threat is going to kill us, but when it comes to protecting our minds from dirty things our stance is about as liberal as it gets. Profanity, outside of mildly offending someone’s taste, seems nearly impossible. Compared to places where you can be killed for speaking out or using sacrilegious images, this freedom is a good thing, right?
I’m not so sure.
I kind of miss the idea of cultural lines that one can’t step over. One of my most memorable high school experiences was getting a permission slip signed by my parents so I could listen to an audiotape of Allen Ginsberg reading “America.” Our teacher warned us it included vulgar language and homosexuality and drugs. Something about having to break a permissive barrier to gain access to that material grabbed my teenage attention more than any of the other stuff we were made to read that year—much of which I’ve long forgotten even the most basic elements of.
But “America” stands out in my mind. And not even because I think it’s a particularly great poem, but because in some way I felt being allowed to hear it was a privilege. Before then, my reading had been waning. I was a voracious book-face child until somewhere during middle or high school, when I became terribly bored with what I was assigned. But even my 16-year-old brain could tell there was something much more volatile under the surface of “America.” From there I set off on my own, first to Burroughs and Henry Miller, and eventually to Joyce, McCarthy, etc. It took a sort of brain bomb to get me going, but once I’d started I couldn’t stop.
Looking over a list of the banned and challenged books in US history, it’s impossible to argue that some of our most important works weren’t at one point considered wrong:
Moby Dick - Banned from English classes in Texas in 1851 because it “conflicted with community values.” Plus, think of how many kids in school must be making dick jokes every time it’s taught.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Called “trash and suitable only for the slums.” Not to mention depicted race in a way that many people today wish they could forget.
Tao Lin’s Photos of Taipei Signs
Over the next few weeks, in celebration of the forthcoming release of Tao Lin’s latest novel, Taipei, we will be featuring a weekly selection of photos taken by the author during his recent trip to Taipei, Taiwan. While there, he took thousands of pictures with his iPhone, pictures which he has divided into albums titled things like “Taipei fashion,” “Taipei carbs,” “Taipei babies,” and “Taipei animals,” among others. In this selection, Tao shows us some of his favorite signs around Taipei.
Taipei will be released on June 4 from Vintage and is available for pre-order now. To read an early excerpt from the novel that we published in 2011 titled “Relationship Story,” click here.
“scoopo it up”
“Beware of column”
James Franco Reviews ‘The Great Gatsby’ Movie
The challenge Baz Luhrmann had in adapting The Great Gatsby to film was similar to what Walter Salles faced with On the Road: how to stay loyal to the era depicted, while still retaining the rawness of the original text. Salles did a great job of capturing the ambiance of 1950s America, but it could be argued that his Dean and Sal didn’t have enough zeal—enough of that desire to live, live, live.
The old saying is that a good book makes a bad film, while a paperback potboiler like The Godfather makes a great film. But this wisdom is derived from the idea that a good book is made by the writing, and if it’s adapted into whatever, its magic is lost. As just about every (film) critique has already noted—and they’re right, if repetitive—most of what makes The Great Gatsby great is Fitzgerald’s prose. We allow the classics to get away with so much because we love the characters. But when older stories are revived for film, the issue of the past and present must be rectified. But that lack was not a function of anything missing in the actors or the general direction as much as it is a result of the passage of time, the encasing of a book in the precious container of “classic” status.