Book Review: Richard Yates by Tao Lin

Richard Yates by Tao Lin, Melville House Publishing, 2010, http:, 208 Pages, ISBN: 978-1-935554-15-8 / $14.95

Love him or hate him one thing is for sure: Tao Lin refuses to be ignored. Richard Yates, the author’s second novel, is by far Lin’s most mature work to date. Many emotions are forced to the surface when discussing Lin’s work. Anger, confusion, indifference, reverence, adoration, emulation all come to mind. But what is lurking under the surface, I suspect, is jealousy. For such a young author (he just turned 27), Lin has created such a litany of feelings so pure that The New York Times referred to him as “A deadpan literary trickster.” So much of the conversation on the Internet surrounding Lin seems to be centered around things other than his writing (his unrelenting quest for publicity) that it’s easy to forget why people should be talking about him. He’s one of the most naturally gifted writers of our generation.

His burgeoning talent is on full display from start to finish, for the first time, in Richard Yates. With a prose style that is a unique mesh of Gmail chat combined with early Ernest Hemingway and hints of Albert Camus and Bret Easton Ellis, Lin has created something that is entirely his own. The ability for him to shed light on the emotional undercurrents of the main characters in Richard Yates while still maintaining the appropriate distance necessary for him to weave a compelling modern romance while balancing an in depth case study on our current generation’s dependence on technology and chronicling both the positives and negatives of such a fixation despite the books slight 55,000 word count is truly remarkable.

Richard Yates is many things: funny, sad, and intelligent. Most of all, though, it’s self-aware. Self-aware of what a modern relationship sounds and feels like. Lin has once again proved that he has a firm grasp on the pulse of his generation.

To call Lin’s style minimalist would be doing a disservice to his nuanced sense of language. He’s managed to carve out a literary niche that’s unique and has, in recent years, caused an influx of student writers to emulate his style. With Richard Yates, Tao Lin is putting the public on notice: either follow or get the fuck out of the way.

“Why does she think I’ll rape you?” said Haley Joel Osmet.

“She thinks everyone on the internet is out to rape everybody.”

“What should I do,” said Haley Joel Osmet.

“You should rape me out of spite,” said Dakota Fanning.

Topics such as bulimia, dependence on technology, youthful isolation, and the mundane intricacies are all in play for Lin and despite them being broached before by many authors never has it come in one succinct novel. What Lin lacks in verbal adventurousness he more than makes up for in having a firm grasp of the characters and subjects he’s portraying.

If you’ve never read Lin before, Richard Yates is a great launching point and for those that have already been introduced to his writing, and have liked it, this book won’t disappoint.

Patrick Trotti is a writer, editor, and student. His fiction has appeared in such publications as New Wave Vomit, The Legendary, and Sleep. Snort. Fuck. among others. He is the Founder and Editor of the online literary journal (Short) Fiction Collective, works as the Noir Fiction Editor for Voices From The Garage, and is a staff member of the online literary journal jmww.

6 responses to “Book Review: Richard Yates by Tao Lin

  1. “He’s one of the most naturally gifted writers of our generation”

    My optimism makes it impossible for me to agree Patrick, and if Lin is this important, the forecast of literature seems very bleak. ~55,000 words seemed like a lot in the hands of Lin. He didn’t need that many to tell his story.

    His flat style may have worked if DF & HJO weren’t so anemic and redundant and uninteresting.

    Here’s my gut reaction to RICHARD YATES:


  2. Pingback: Tao Lin vs. Albert Camus « Caleb Powell's Page·

  3. I read a galley of RICHARD YATES this summer, and it was one of the most boring books I’ve ever finished. My curiosity pushed me on, but it was just pages of dull, sort of like sitting in a car listening in to young adults converse, real but boring. Lin ain’t no Camus.

    Thing is, he’s got a great voice and modus operandi, he’s a smart guy, but I think he could do with less praise and more serious constructive criticism. RICHARD YATES is essentially a short story drawn out by repetition. Lin said he spent over 2,500 hours on the novel. Whether true or not, and no matter how many “clever” hidden meanings are within (HJO & DK’s real ages match the fictional character), bottom line is it reads like it was typed in a week and then edited.

    As for “Lin has created such a litany of feelings so pure…”

    Really? Where? I disagree. I just want a potentially good writer like Lin to challenge himself rather than pander to the “Taolicophants” and create a new school of “narcissentialism”.


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  5. “With a prose style that is a unique mesh of Gmail chat combined with early Ernest Hemingway and hints of Albert Camus and Bret Easton Ellis, Lin has created something that is entirely his own.”

    Guy, you hurred when you should have durred.


  6. Pingback: Caleb Powell | Tao Lin’s Richard Yates vs. the 2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual | The Nervous Breakdown·

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