At the beginning of this video, joy flickers across Tao Lin’s face when he mentions that his book just won a prize. He tries to maintain his characteristic monotone, but watching him fail, even for a split second, makes it obvious that he’s really excited about his book, and excited about books in general.
The video also makes it clear that Lin is a big fan of Frederick Barthelme. It’s pretty awesome that a young guy like Lin, whose preferred modes of expression seem to be Gchat and Microsoft Paint, genuinely loves a somewhat obscure author from a different time and place. Instead of really critiquing Barthelme, Lin offers an intimate display of his relationship to Barthelme’s work. We see Lin’s face, his bedroom, his copies of Barthelme’s books; we hear his voice, and we evaluate his inflections.
It may seem like a parody, or a fuck-you to anyone who expects Lin to write a thesis on an established author. But even if this isn’t a commentary on Barthelme’s work, it’s still a reflection on the weird and exciting way in which Lin feels connected to him. Lin may be more of a self-promoter than a fellow writer. But this video—like a lot of Lin’s stuff—is charged with feeling, and directly related to literature. He seems to believe that’s enough.