December 17, 2009
Outfitting Urban Outfitters
by Dennis Johnson
“This is meta,” says Mackenzie Schmidt in a Village Voice report: “Any day now, Shoplifting at American Apparel, the self-proclaimed ‘controversial’ novella by much-hyped young Brooklyn writer Tao Lin, will go on sale. . . at Urban Outfitters.”
While the report gets a couple of things wrong — Urban Outfitters didn’t approach us, our intrepid sales reps at Random House went to them with the idea — it does get the heart of the story precisely right: “And while one could read stocking Lin’s book as a passive-aggressive shot from one side to another, it’s likely more of a genius coincidence that allows Urban Outfitters to sell a book about stealing from one of their closest rivals, written almost expressly for their target demographic.”
Lin, meanwhile, promptly announced on his website that he planned a sequel called Shoplifting Shoplifting from American Apparel from Urban Outfitters.
Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him at @mobylives