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July 23, 2013

Book Notes - Tao Lin "Taipei"


In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Taipei is Tao Lin's most realized and complex work, one where his iconic prose has been crystallized to devastating emotional effect. The novel is heartbreakingly honest, Lin is easily one of favorite writers (this is his seventh Book Notes piece at Largehearted Boy, by far the most of any writer).

The Guardian wrote of the book:

"With a neat line in offbeat analogy, Lin's writing here is more intricate – even beautiful – than you might expect, and as a portrait of an internet-shaped psyche, it's unmatched."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.

In his own words, here is Tao Lin's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Taipei:

I made an index of bands/musicians/songs/albums mentioned by name in Taipei. To provide limited context I isolated every sentence (and an email) in the book that contained an indexed band/etc. The sentences are alphabetical by band/musician except Beck (under Smashing Pumpkins), Kurt Cobain (included as Nirvana), Rainer Maria (under Stereolab).


Beck, Don Caballero ("The Peter Criss Jazz"), Fuck Buttons, Kurt Cobain, Led Zeppelin, Lil Wayne, Michael Jackson, Natalie Imbruglia ("Torn"), Nirvana, P.S. Eliot, Rainer Maria, Rilo Kiley ("Annoying Noise of Death"), Smashing Pumpkins ("Today"; "Tonight, Tonight"; "Zero"), Stereolab, The Ataris (Look Forward to Failure EP), The Knife ("Heartbeats"), The Postal Service ("Such Great Heights"), The Strokes ("Last Nite"), The Weakerthans (Fallow LP)


Don Caballero

He clicked "The Peter Criss Jazz" by Don Caballero. (page 84)

Fuck Buttons

"Caroline was telling us she went to a Fuck Buttons concert tonight," said Mitch. (81)

Fuck Buttons. (81)

Led Zeppelin

Paul thought "I'm in hell" when people began to loudly mimic the guitar parts of the Led Zeppelin playing from a tape deck, resulting mostly in demonic-sounding noises and a kind of metallic, nightmarish screeching. (49)

Lil Wayne

They began talking about a Lil Wayne documentary that focused on Lil Wayne's "drug problem," which Lil Wayne denied. Paul felt it was bleak and depressing that the filmmakers superimposed their views onto Lil Wayne. (98)

Michael Jackson

Loud, dancey, mostly electronic music—currently Michael Jackson— played from unseen speakers. (5)

He sipped his wine, thinking about how Michael Jackson had been using ten to forty Xanax per night, according to the internet, before he died last summer. (5)

Paul's uncle, who spoke English fluently, congratulated Erin then carefully said two sentences to her and maybe Paul, who was remembering how he'd been surprised—and complicatedly moved—once when his uncle talked about buying and liking Michael Jackson's music, in this car, after asking if Paul, who doesn't remember what he answered, or how old he'd been, maybe 10 or 11, liked Michael Jackson. (209)

Natalie Imbruglia

They shared a 30mg Adderall and drove to the airport, listening to a '90s station, both immediately recognizing Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn," whose lyrics, to a degree that Paul couldn't stop grinning, seemed to be a near-unbroken series of borderline non sequitur clichés. (108)


Paul thought of how she liked Nirvana a lot, and she crossed the street, slowing as she neared and stopping within arm's reach. (11)

In Barnes & Noble, a few hours later, he stole Nirvana's second "greatest hits" collection. (138)

Paul packaged a strip of LSD, four MDMA, twelve ecstasy inside the CD case for Nirvana's second "greatest hits" album, which he wrapped in transparent tape, then in four issues of Seattle's leading alt weekly with his face on the cover, which his mother had requested he bring, then in a shirt, which he fit snugly inside a shoebox. (155)

When Erin, looking at herself in the wall mirror, finished blow-drying her hair, around fifteen minutes later, Paul looked up from where he'd remained on his yoga mat—absently scrolling through bohemianism's Wikipedia page after clicking "bohemian" on Kurt Cobain's page, which he'd looked at, while rereading emails from his mother, to see if he died at 26 or 27—and asked if Erin was "ready," with what felt like a self-consciously neutral expression, vaguely sensing his question to be antagonistic, because he didn't know exactly what it referenced. (156)

Paul was trying to open the taped CD case for Nirvana's second "greatest hits" collection. (169)

P.S. Eliot

Remembered being depressed at dinner w Michelle in empty house

While driving to Pittsburgh w Erin asleep

Typed on iPhone in Gmail w right hand

Listening to P. S. Eliot

Left hand on steering wheel (222)

Rilo Kiley

Paul asked if he liked Rilo Kiley and he became quiet a few seconds, seeming worried, like he might not be able to answer, before saying "um, not really." (26)

He opened his MacBook and played "Annoying Noise of Death" and saw that Daniel was calmly observing himself, in the full-length wall mirror, as he exercised with Caroline's five-pound weights that were usually on the floor in the kitchen. Fran said to put on Rilo Kiley. Paul said it was Rilo Kiley and, after a few motionless seconds, Fran slowly turned her head away to rotate her face, like a moon orbiting behind its planet, interestingly out of view. (62)

"When you asked me if I liked Rilo Kiley, the night we met, I thought you were joking," said Daniel. (63)

He texted Daniel that he was going to Khim's to "stock up on eggplant" and walked six blocks to the large deli below Harry's apartment, feeling energetic and calm, listening to Rilo Kiley through earphones at a medium volume. (77)

Smashing Pumpkins

When he woke, an unknown amount of time later—between five and forty minutes, or longer—he observed neutrally that, though he was drooling a little and probably the only non-dancing person in the room, no one was looking at him, then moved toward the room's iPod with the goal-oriented, zombie-like calmness of a person who has woken at night thirsty and is walking to his refrigerator and changed the music to "Today" by the Smashing Pumpkins. (73)

After the house party, in a bar staffed by Asians, with Chinese and Vietnamese food, Paul saw and approached Taryn, who seemed happy to see him, to his mild surprise (they'd only met once and vaguely, at the party where Paul put on "Today" by the Smashing Pumpkins). (110)

Paul was walking aimlessly through the store with a bored expression, holding the Smashing Pumpkins' double CD below him, at waist level, where he scratched its plastic wrapping in an idle, distracted, privately frustrated manner. After finally tearing it off and lodging it, with difficulty, because it kept clinging to him by static electricity, behind some Beck CDs, he used "brute force," he thought instructionally, to pry open the locked case and get only the blue CD, which had "Tonight, Tonight" and "Zero" on it, to listen to in the rental car. (138)


Paul lay on his back for most of the drive, sometimes sitting to noncommittally mumble something relevant, including that he liked Stereolab and Rainer Maria, to what he could hear of Calvin and Erin's conversation. (95)

The Ataris

Around 4:30 a.m., in his room, Paul bit a piece of a 150mg Seroquel and listened to songs he hadn't heard since high school, mostly the EP Look Forward to Failure by The Ataris. (57)

The Knife

Paul, stomach-down on his mattress, asked what music he should play and clicked "Heartbeats" by The Knife. (84)

The Postal Service

He clicked "Such Great Heights" by The Postal Service and said "just kidding." (84)

Daniel said to put The Postal Service back on and snorted half his line. (84)

The Strokes

They both laughed a little and Paul clicked "Last Nite" by The Strokes and said it sounded too depressing. (84)

The Weakerthans

"The Weakerthans wrote an album about that, right?" (196)

"Fallow?" said Paul.
"Fallow," said Erin confidently. (196)

Tao Lin and Taipei links:

the author's website
Wikipedia entry for the book
excerpt from the book

The Coffin Factory review
Guardian review
New York Observer review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
Telegraph review
Thought Catalog review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for Bed by the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy by the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for Eeeee Eee Eeee by the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Richard Yates
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for Shoplifting from American Apparel by the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for you are a little bit happier than i am by the author
Minnesota Daily profile of the author
VICE interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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