Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Straight Novel, Bent Art

Dan Trask has begun his tour promoting DMR, his new novel. He's blogging about the trip here. His route is formidable, with visits to 62 cities this summer. Only imagine!

I met Dan at a writing conference in the Adirondacks. He's a serious writer and a fun guy. He reads 30,000 words every day and wakes at 5AM to start writing. DMR is his second novel, after My Dog the Meateater came out when he was only like 21. I like DMR. I wrote about it at JMWW. It's a straighter book than I'm typically inclined to read on purpose. I read all sorts of straight books by accident and don't normally enjoy them nearly as much as Dan's book.

One of the 62 stops will be in Baltimore, at the literary salon, whereat we will listen to Verdi's Requiem and hopefully I will get Blake Butler to say "BOOM."

Speaking of marketing, Tao Lin has embarked on a decidedly more bent campaign than Dan's. He's made stickers to promote his new book of poems, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, but all that the stickers say is "BRITNEY SPEARS." That's so messed up. It's really fascinating. It's really good. It's just great. It's the most expansive conceptual piece. I have thought about it in six different ways.

1. BRITNEY SPEARS is the name of a pop singer who The Atlantic Monthly just featured in an article about paparazzi. As such, it's not hard to see how the name is related to Tao Lin, who is a very famous writer. However, if I just saw these stickers on a NYC avenue, I wouldn't immediately think: Tao Lin, Tao Lin. I should buy her new book. His new book. I wonder what it is like.

2. Although I wouldn't suddenly think that, now that I know he is executing a campaign like this, I know something about his work. I know that it is interesting and not necessarily concerned with being reasonable. I sense that Tao Lin is more interested in making a good joke than having everyone understand a middling one.

3. What is going on with these stickers? I should think about them at some point.

4. A person cannot like or dislike Tao Lin's stickers. The stickers do not exist. I mean, maybe they exist, maybe there is words on paper on glue, but they are only referents. They are signposts to something beyond the stickers, and beyond even BRITNEY SPEARS, the signified. The stickers are pure meaning. It is possible that a person can dislike what the stickers mean, but it is not possible that a person can know what they mean. It is said that God does not exist, he is eternal. I'm not sure if that relates.

5. In her life, BRITNEY SPEARS has endured turmoil. For her art, BRITNEY SPEARS is often the subject of scorn. People don't think she is very good because a lot of money is spent making her songs, and for a while she didn't write any of them. And then I think people imagined that the ones she did write were penned in purple ink with bubbly letters. With her stickers by Tao Lin, no judgment is being passed on her. Also, no judgment is being passed on his new book. So why is it weird to have a sticker that says BRITNEY SPEARS but not a book that has Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy emblazoned on it, when a book is not literally therapy? Presumably this is because the book can clarify its relationship to the words on its cover.

6. These stickers are funny and alluring. Will they be big enough to bear out the backstory, that they are marketing a book of poetry called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?


The blog of Adam Robinson and Publishing Genius Press