Sunday, September 17, 2006

Tao Lin: You Are a Little Bit Happier than I Am

Reviewed by: Noah Cicero

Noah acknowledges that he knows Tao Lin personally, that they are friends and even work together. On this site, they have reviewed each other's books.

Ludwig Wittgenstein said, serious and good philosophical work could be
written consisting entirely of jokes, and that's what You Are a Little Bit
Happier than I am is, it is a philosophical treatise on the emptiness and
alienation on the first years of the 21st Century. You are a Little Bit Happier than I am shows a world where humans are all lost in their internal monologues, so alienated they cannot even speak to each other, everyone is lost- floating.

The title itself, You Are a Little Bit Happier than I am, shows what kind of
people Americans have become, everyone in America is refusing to listen to the sadness of other people and instead reply, I don't care about your shit, you are a little bit happier than I am, what do I care about you. That America has an epidemic of self-loathing and self-pitying people that refuse to help each other because each person views themselves as the most pitiful creatures alive.

The language in You are a Little Bit Happier than I am is not poetic. If these are even poems we cannot be sure. There are a lot of paragraphs, there is no meter applied, no musical voice, just a collection of loosely connected concrete and direct sentences. It doesn't matter if there are poems. Perhaps they are something new, some new 21st Century Language resulting from a person's main use of text coming from instant message chats and emails. Tao Lin writes about emails often, “I woke up at 12:30 p.m. and sat on my bed. I emailed people and ate cereal and that took three hours because I took my time. When I finished I didn't know what to do so I emailed some more people.

Tao Lin in I am about to express myself follows Rimbaud's philosophy of saying exactly what he means:

I want to check my email
I want to see a movie
I want to kill people
Feels like I need to kill someone
I want to kill you
I hate everything

As you can see from those lines Tao Lin is not trying to win you over with his knowledge of poetry he received in creative writing class. He is just saying it.

Tao Lin wants to kill people. All Americans want to kill people. If we didn't
want to kill people we wouldn't sit for hours and play video games here we
shoot digital images that resemble humans, we wouldn't watch horror and action movies. Living in America, waiting in all these long lines, having our favorite shows interrupted for commercials, all these 401K plans, our lack of health insurance, our low pay, our idiotic power hungry bosses, our congested highways, the inability of our government to even care that the bottom 80 percent of the population even exists makes us want to kill people.

Tao Lin talks about how there is too much information:

And making choices
about what to Google
what information to exclude
and who to blame

The people of the 21st Century are facing an existential problem, there are too many choices. Back in the day a man would work at their dad's job, his dad would get him a union card and he would go to the factory or become a carpenter. Women would become housewives or work as a secretary. But now with loans and grants and the amount of occupations technology has created even at our local vocational schools there are over thirty occupations a person can pick from. A lot of young people get so bombarded with different occupations they can do, they decide to do none. It is the same way with ideas, back in the day you believed in the King, or you lived in a small town and you were sheltered and believed in whatever small town philosophy it had. But now you can live in a small town and Google everything from Nazism, the Green Party, Eastern Mysticism, Communism, Anarchism, ECO-Terrorism, existentialism, Christianity and

Jean Paul Sartre's theory was that man is condemned to freedom. That are main suffering comes anguish which is the fact that we are always forced to make a choice. Back in the day when our worlds were small, there were very few choices, but now because of the internet, television, quick and easy transportation our worlds have become big, and if our worlds are big, then we have an abundance of choices: and that's when Tao Lin's question comes in what information to exclude? How do we settle on one choice, on one thing? If you can't settle on one thing immediately then anxiety comes.

Outside I thought I saw someone I knew and felt afraid. Tao Lin shows how people have become afraid of each other in America. People in America have been taught and showed subliminally that all other humans are trying to take their job, take their lovers, steal their shit, betray them, sell their secrets to the national media, and perhaps are terrorists and are trying to kill them.

Existentially America is in such a state of judging other people, that everyone is looking at each other in terms of are, Are you cool?Are you this political party? Do you believe in saving the environment? Do you eat meat? Do you smoke? Do you condone the sex industry? Are you pro or anti abortion? Do you listen to pop music or indie music? Where do you shop? Are you anti-SUV? Are you for gay marriage? etc etc etc! It has become like Stalinism in the way we judge people here. We judge each other so much a lot of us have become afraid of other people, afraid of their criticisms.

But what I think Tao Lin is talking about in You are a Little Bit Happier than I am is that he doesn't want to judge other people so harshly. Tao Lin in poem to end my head off the masterpiece of the collection results in talking about animals and declaring there is no free will, in my opinion he mentions the animals because at least animals don't judge, at least animals don't walk around making up pseudo identities to fight about and fight wars for. And he declares there is no free will not because there isn't any, because he often in the book talks about choices, but because if there is no free will, then we can't blame each other, and if we can't blame each other, then we can't judge and criticize and be dicks for no reason.

You are a Little Bit Happier than I am is about how silly our thoughts are in the 21st Century, how we don't think straight, how we spend more time checking our email than actually having fun, how we spend our time thinking about getting the best sales on laundry machines than spending time with friends, we are Googling rather than experiencing. Instead of making machines work for us, we let the machines work us, and have become like machines.

1 comment:

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