Book Review

May 14, 2007 at 1:18 pm | Posted in books | 14 Comments


Eeeee Eee Eeee
by Tao Lin
Melville House Publishing

Tao Lin‘s Eeeee-Eee-Eeee may be considered a 21st century follow-up to Albert Camus’s L’Étranger — only instead of an Arab being shot to death by a confused and amoral colonialist, Elijah Wood is clubbed to death by a dolphin.

If you’re the kind of person who read that last sentence and immediately wondered how an aquatic mammal with flippers could club a human to death, then this is probably not the book for you. Eeeee-Eee-Eeee is Tao Lin’s world, and you’re going to have to learn to go with the flow — talking dolphins, teleporting bears, nervous hamsters and all.

Of course, there are human beings in Lin’s world, and not just celebrities. Unlike the animals, however, the human characters find themselves incapable of acting, despite a universal longing to engage with the world around them. Andrew, a morose and underachieving pizza-delivery boy/writer, fantasizes constantly about going on killing rampages but finds he lacks the energy and stamina for murder. Mark hopes to find authentic experience in pop culture, but is regularly frustrated by Andrew’s sarcastic jibes. Ellie seeks purpose in political activism, but is stymied by philosophical contradictions. Ultimately, all the characters are so overtaken by anomie and ennui that they can’t even conjure up more than the mildest bemusement at the talking menagerie around them.

Which brings us back to those dolphins. It’s not clear to me whether Lin is portraying an alternate reality in which hyper-intelligent animals have always coexisted with humanity, but I prefer to think that the animals are a new feature, and are acting as harbingers of some great societal cataclysm. The biggest hint of this is a conversation between Andrew and a hamster, during which the hamster seems to be trying to convey a warning of some sort. Unfortunately, the hamster isn’t very bright, and keeps forgetting what he wants to say. Eventually, he’s attacked by an owl, and Andrew is left as befuddled — and unconcerned — as ever.

And so it goes in Tao Lin’s world — everyone is so deadened by the banality of existence that even the truly absurd fails to make an impression. Even more tellingly, the bears and dolphins are almost as depressed and disillusioned as the humans. In fact, the only characters who seem to have found any pleasure or meaning from their existence are the celebrities — Jhumpa Lahiri on her diamond yacht, Salman Rushdie feeling proud and famous, Elijah Wood and his (apparently unreturned) respect for dolphins.

Maybe Lin’s point is that pop celebrity is the only truly authentic experience available to us in a postmodern world. In which case, I hope Elijah Wood hears about this book, and how in it he was murdered by a dolphin, and I hope it makes him so mad that he sues Tao Lin. And I hope Tao Lin manages to milk the controversy for all it’s worth, until he attains the kind of celebrity status that may one day redeem us all.

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14 Comments

  1. how is it that I have heard of this book numerous times in the last 24 hours, whereas before that I had never heard of it at all? and all I’ve heard is tao lin mouthing off. I don’t know anything about his writing, but he would do well to take a page from jhumpa lahiri’s book and let his work speak for itself. but then few writers have that kind of self-control.

  2. Ooh, feisty.
    _
    There’s no question that Lin is an enfant terrible, but his hijinks are getting his books read. You can be the most lyrical writer in the world, but if no one’s reading you, what’s the point?

  3. “If you’re the kind of person who read that last sentence and immediately wondered how an aquatic mammal with flippers could club a human to death, then this is probably not the book for you.”

    I am one of those people.

  4. Why would Elijah Wood care what some no-body writes about him? People say things abuot celebrities all the time. Usually they either really like them or else they are using them for there own ends. It sounds like this guy Toa is one of the latters.

  5. You said You can be the most lyrical writer in the world, but if no one’s reading you, what’s the point?

    Some poeple write to say importnat things, others just want to become celebrities. Emily Dickison was one of the first kind, Toa Lin is one of the latters.

  6. Are we talking about Elijah Wood the Hobbit?

    Confused.

  7. Well, he’s not really a hobbit. He just played one in a movie.

  8. Funny! But at least I’m sure of who is being clubbed by a dolphin. How sad for the dolphin to be so ill-used in this manner. I’m sure they are humanitarians after all…
    Sounds like an interesting book, but I’m not sure I’d have the patience for a good to be gobbled hamster…

  9. I like meaningful anger, but people who are merely angry about being angry are responsible for most of the world’s misery (and its major religions) and cheapen anger for the rest of us. If you must kill, then do so…do it savagely and often…but please stop all this high-pitched who-does-he-think-he-is-ism; it’s like watching performance art in a dark room full of second-graders.

  10. elijah wood is a hobbit.

  11. “If you’re the kind of person who read that last sentence and immediately wondered how an aquatic mammal with flippers could club a human to death, then this is probably not the book for you.”

    I assumed it used its flippers… seemed pretty easy to me.

  12. why is this considered to be a to be a 21c follow-up to camus’ l’étranger?
    delphine

  13. the point would be, you would be the most lyrical writer in the world. and everyone would tell their friends, hey, you have to check this gal out, she’s the most lyrical writer in the world! that would be neat.

  14. Delphine – Because it deals with similar themes — alienation, morality, the absurd, the meaninglessness of abstractions, the inadequacy of human interaction… but puts them in a 21st century context.


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