April 22, 2011
Tao Lin doesn't want to fight or worry about the future of the book. He wants to understand your "noumenon."
by Melville House
For those of you concerned that Tao Lin had abandoned fiction-writing to direct feature films shot entirely on his MacBook, have no fear. In a New York Observer “Culture” article, Lin (Bed, Eeeee eee eeee, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Shoplifting from American Apparel, and Richard Yates) writes with notable passion about the novel’s lasting, unequaled, human importance:
Novels—and memoirs—are perhaps the most comprehensive reports humans can deliver, of their private experiences, to other humans. In these terms there is only one kind of novel: a human attempt to transfer or convey some part or version of their world of noumenon to another’s world of noumenon.
[FYI. Noumenon: "Kantianism. something that can be the object only of a purely intellectual, nonsensuous intuition."]
Lin’s article begins with “RECENT STATEMENTS ABOUT THE STATE OF THE NOVEL: A SAMPLE” which includes exceprts from the aesthetic battle between the various literary schools over the last 50 years—minimalists, postmodernists, etc. Lin describes the “complaining…attacks” as “a comically uneven, at times suddenly directionless, almost zanily halfhearted narrative.” His sympathies seem to lie with the peacemakers, such as maximalist John Barth, whose 1986 New York Times essay on minimalism Lin quotes: ”between minimalism and its opposite, I pity the reader—or the writer, or the age—too addicted to either to savor the other.”
After some whimsical conjecture about that perennial hot-topic, the future of the book, Lin concludes with a powerful and direct statement of what he wants from novels, and, presumedly, why he writes them:
Therefore I currently feel most interested in reading/writing novels that aren’t improvements on or innovations of other novels. I want to view each potential novel as already definitively and unavoidably unique, improvable only in comparison to itself and then only from its creator’s singular perspective. I want to learn about another human’s unique experience from reports they’ve made themselves while excitedly aware that they alone, regardless of what others are thinking or doing, have access to what they’re reporting upon. I do, sometimes—rarely, I think—want to know, “What do you think other people are going to be thinking about in 20 years?” or “How do you feel humankind, generally, is going to feel like in 50 or 100 years?” But mostly I want to know, “What are you thinking about?” and “How do you feel?”