The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

‘Shoplifting’ is a smart read

2 min read

Tao Lin’s first novella, “Shoplifting From American Apparel” is 103 pages of succinct, almost too realistic descriptions and direct dialogue that explore the complexities of relationships and focuses on the simple and sometimes mundane aspects of life.

The work spans two years of narrator Sam’s life, covering his multiple arrests for shoplifting, the progression of his career as an up-and-coming writer, and his relationships with the many women he encounters during that time.

Lin has described the book as “Two parts shoplifting arrests, five parts vague relationship issues,” which may be the most accurate description out there.

Although some might criticize Lin for being too bland at times, it’s his understated style that makes his writing so relatable. So much of what he says—and how he says it—are things we have all probably thought at one time.

The scenes he describes are written in such great, clear detail that reading them is more satisfying than seeing them acted out on screen could ever be.

While many authors are writing from feelings of great emotion and struggle, Lin seems to be doing just the opposite.

He writes about everyday feelings of boredom and laziness.

Reading Lin’s work is like reading a transcript of your thoughts and actions, yet it is still inexplicably interesting.

“Shoplifting From American Apparel” is said to be Lin’s most autobiographical work to date, though it’s still considered fiction.

Lin, like his protagonist, lives and writes in New York. He graduated from New York University and has been featured in several literary journals.

Much of his writing, particularly the early work, is published on his blog. Lin has published collections of his poetry, short stories and one full-length novel.

His second novel, “Richard Yates,” will be in stores in the summer of 2010.