Tao Lin Is Recovering from Himself.
By Andrea Long Chu
In “Leave Society,” Lin’s protagonist is sick, tired of autofiction, and searching for a better way to be. Does he succeed?
"As it happens, these are Li’s three primary activities in “Leave Society,” the latest autobiographical novel from the author Tao Lin. Lin has spent the past decade novelizing his life in aloof, literal-minded prose; his breakthrough novel, “Taipei” (2013), which fictionalized a drug-fuelled relationship, was apparently pared down from a twenty-five-thousand-page draft of recollections. Lin’s books of autofiction have made him something of a darling in the Alt Lit scene, where their disaffected sincerity has earned him the title of (although we have so many of these now) the “voice of his generation”—namely, the millennial one, with its infinitely mediated sentimentality."
"Ultimately, Li decides that he likes autobiography’s “self-catalyzing properties” too much to abandon it, observing that life is “larger, realer, more complicated” than a novel. Of course, that is a novel’s value—not that you can fit a whole life inside of one but that life, in being pared down to the size of a book, necessarily acquires the specificity of form. This act of aspect-giving—of making things look one way and not another—is the primary function of authorship. Think of Oscar Wilde, who once wrote that London wasn’t foggy until the Impressionists started painting it that way."