Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tao Lin, Richard Yates, Lawrence of Arabia, and Hercules

There are scenes in the film Lawrence of Arabia that draw you into the desert like no other film can. You seem to feel the desolation, lost in the vast dryness. But the experience is epic, more than it is empty.

In a lesser known B-movie titled Hercules Against the Moon Men, there is what must be a 5 minute sequence of Hercules trudging through the desert. There are no words spoken, no sounds heard, except for the wind blowing the sand. Having sat through it once, I can honestly say that it is the longest five minutes I have ever experienced on film. It feels endless. It feels like how the desert must really feel.

Richard Yates is a truly gifted writer, probably known best for Revolutionary Road, arguably his best work. He writes on the ennui and boredom of suburban life, the barrenness of the American Dream. But he writes about it in a way that draws you in deeper and captivates you completely.

Tao Lin may be a gifted writer. I cannot decide. His most recent novel, Richard Yates, is a story of the ennui and boredom of the 2010 teen/twentysomething. And his boredom is like Hercules' desert. His boredom is boring. I kept pushing myself forward, sure that the story was about to pick up, discovering that it never did. The way he conveys the emptiness of relating by inane text message is by dreaming up a sequence of inane text messages. There may be a kind of brilliance to it, but it is tedious as hell.

I will say this, hours spent reading this book was just as rewarding and fulfilling as hours spent with two bored and boring teenagers. If he hoped to put me in the desert, he did it. But I never sat through that Hercules' segment a second time and I never recommended anyone else do it once.

1 comment:

  1. Exactly! Tao Lin is the American Dork, lowering the literary bar everywhere. Here's my review at Dooney's Cafe: