Shoplifting From American Apparel by Tao Lin

So I kind of went a little crazy on the Melville House Publishing website. You see…they have this series called The Art of the Novella and I’m a TOTAL sucker for novellas. I love them. They expand the story a bit more than a short story, yet still make for a nice one sitting read. Except for Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf…I got that one and it may take a couple of sittings to get through that one as it looks more to me like a novel than a novella :p But the point is, I think this is an awesome series. I was attracted to it originally due to the design of the books. But then I started looking at the titles and they have some amazing classics titles as well as a new line of contemporary titles.

Shoplifting From American Apparel is one of their contemporary novella titles. And contemporary it is. Matt asked me what the book was about and I wrote back “It’s basically about white kid problems…it would be really bad if it weren’t so good.” And I think that’s still how I feel about it after reading it. It’s an interesting book. It follows a guy, Sam, who’s a big underground author and a bunch of his friends. And that’s BASICALLY what the book does. Sort ofย  “a few days in the life.” They chat over gmail, carry their macs around, eat vegan, drink kombucha, shop at American Apparel,ย  go see bands called “Star Fucking Hipsters” and go to clubs where Moby is the dj. Oh…and they say things are fucked a lot. Like “we are fucked” “everything is fucked” “I am fucked” “my life is fucked”. Yeah.

Now in the wrong hands…I should say in MOST author’s hands…a book like this would just come off as ridiculous hipster propaganda. But it came off as much more to me than that and I found it to truly be an entertaining if not thought provoking read. I know that personally, I would think I would be happy if I could write books, play on my Mac, afford everything American Apparel (because they are the most comfy clothes), and listen to music and talk bands all day…well I would be happy. But Lin makes a good point here that an appealing lifestyle doesn’t automatically equal happiness.

This is a very existential type book. What I got from this book is that happiness comes from within. When I read a book like this I can be VERY tempted to say “awww…poor rich white kid…you’re sad..well guess what, there are kids who haven’t EATEN for a week.” And if anyone else would’ve wrote this book, well I probably would’ve said that. The fact is, in this book, none of these people are happy. It’s the reason I would assume he uses the term “fucked” so often in this book.

Happiness is a term that can’t be measured by anyone except the person experiencing it. These twenty somethings have a lot of interesting things going on in their lives, yet they’re not happy. They want more. There’s something missing. Probably something internal. While that starving child may still find happiness in the worst of settings. It’s easy to say, “you have no right to be depressed,” but the truth is something different. People do have a reason for depression…or sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re just depressed.

So my first experience with the art of the novella series has been a good one. This is the only “modern” book that I got from them, but I certainly plan on checking more of them out in the future. I did however get SIX classic novellas by Austen, Shelley, Woolf, Gogol, Tolstoy and Howells…so some fun reading ahead!


3 Responses

  1. You have definitely got your reading groove back, haven’t you? ๐Ÿ˜€ That’s gotta feel good, and damn, but you’ve been reading a cool eclectic mix to boot!

  2. You know sometimes I do actually feel sorry for them, at least the ones you read about in magazines and hear about on the news. Yes they’re blind to what they could actually do with the resources at their disposal, but I would never wish that kind of mental and emotional vacancy on anyone…It is kind of sad, no matter how rich they are. This sounds like a book that would make for some great discussions…lol Wonderful review Chris ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. I love SFAA. I agree that a lot of the book is about what can and cannot make someone happy. You should check out Tao Lin’s latest novel, “Richard Yates”. It’s a bit more serious but written in the same style. And his twitter feed is hilarious: @tao_lin

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