The Best Books of 2013 Image via Vintage

Taipei

Author: Tao Lin
Publisher: Vintage
Buy it here

An excerpt from one of Taipei’s most notable negative reviews: “When I began to read Taipei on my morning commute, I wondered if I had been lobotomized in the night.”

In the context of that review, the lobotomy comment is meant as disrespect. Which is amusing because it’s actually a great articulation of Taipei’s strength. The book does rewire your brain. Tao Lin’s prose, which has been derided as “affectless,” is just as styled as any great author’s, only Lin’s is crafted to deaden the senses, to lull you into a kind of sad trance that mirrors the mind state of the novel's narrator, Paul.

Paul is a young man living in New York. He’s a writer. He does lots of drugs. His relationship with his parents, who live in Taipei, is strained. His romantic relationships are just as complicated. There isn’t so much in the way of a plot; instead, Lin’s language is the lure that drags you deeper into the dead zone that is this novel.

It’s an obnoxious thing to say, that a piece of art captures how we live now. (Who is the “we,” after all?) But for city-dwelling children of the Internet, this is it. This is right now. Maybe you don’t like what you see, but you can’t deny its power.

And if you don't believe a hipster like me, take Zadie Smith's word for it. —Ross Scarano

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