Reading Taipei, I was reminded of a long video art installation in a gallery, which you’re not reasonably expected to watch from the beginning or, indeed, to the end, but are asked implicitly to experience for, say, ten minutes before going on your way. The affect of the work is predicated not on its narrative – if it even has one – but its aesthetic or its perspective, its capacity for defamiliarisation or otherness. On your behalf I read every page of Taipei, starting at the beginning and continuing to the end, wishing for most of it that I were able to dip in for a while on my way from the sculpture room to the gallery café. This isn’t to say that Tao Lin has dispensed with narrative (though I think he probably should have done), as Taipei is a love story of sorts; more that the work is – in its ambition, its nowness, its endless chafing at the limits of its form – more like a piece of contemporary art than it is a contemporary novel, with all the good and bad things that entails.
The protagonist of this love story is Paul, like Lin a writer born to Taiwanese parents in America, with a large online following and a fondness for doing readings while under the influence of hallucinogens. He travels about a bit, taking industrial quantities of, among other drugs, Xanax, Adderall, Klonopin