This week marks the publication of Internet lit kingpin Tao Lin’s seventh book, the perhaps-more-autobiographical-than-usual Taipei. Wednesday evening there was a party to celebrate at indie bookstore powerHouse Arena in Dumbo. Here’s how it was for your BlackBook correspondent (a somewhat less well-known novelist) to attend:
7:50 Arrive 50 fashionable minutes late, knowing I need a large crowd if I’m not to look appallingly awkward. Lots of people smoking outside. Speak to a Salon reporter who is shoveling a giant Poland Spring bottle into his backpack. Inadvertently interrupt his conversation with a smoker in a red dress whom I then realize is Marie Calloway, whose own book, what purpose did i serve in your life, is doing quite well despite three publishers balking at its “obscene” content. Have no idea what to say. Run inside.
7:55 Notice the crowd is twice as big as most literary parties that happen in this space, and the booze line is about four times longer than average. Get on line for booze. Encounter a prominent reading organizer who asks if I see anyone from Vintage (Taipei’s publisher). We decide the actual publishing people must be the ones in neckties, etc., as most others are out of hipster central casting.
8:05 Burrow as deep into crowd of strangers as I can. Sip wine. Realize I haven’t eaten yet. Listen to the music DJ’d by two Pitchfork writers. Not bad. Spot Lin himself sitting atop amphitheater steps, drinking just sparkling San Pellegrino: the classic pillhead cocktail. Begin to look around with an eye as to who might be a drug dealer. Approach none of my guesses.
8:15 The editor for Taipei makes a few strained remarks (leading off with a standard publishing joke about drinking, no laughs) as Lin sits back and records the whole thing on his iPhone. Briefly concerned that I may be in the background of this video, but think I’m okay. Editor does get one laugh, by relaying a line from the New York Times book review (“like Hemingway filtered through Twitter and Klonopin”) and then instructs us to “exhaust the wine supply.”
8:16 Get on the wine line again, this time behind Marie Calloway, who turns around and locks eyes, and I have the fleeting fear that I’m about to puke on her. Discussion with other dude about whether we are on the line for wine or the line to get books signed. Some confusion.
8:17 Wine supply exhausted.
8:20 Lost time. Think I sat down for a minute and tried to sip the last wine as slowly as possible to stave off impending anxiety attack. Enjoying Pitchfork DJs. Consider going up to tell them so, as have nothing better to do. Ultimately too nervous.
8:40 Get in finally shortening line to get book signed. Only have an old book by Steven Millhauser. I don’t know Tao personally, but we each know whom the other is, kind of, so I think he might think it’s funny, especially if he’s high, as he must be.
8:45 Notice guy in vintage Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt who is pulling Presidente beers out of his backpack. Having finished the wine, offer to buy one of the beers off him. He only has one left and it’s got someone else’s name on it. I tell him he’s a good friend. “I am,” he agrees thoughtfully.
8:50 Party almost over, looks like Tao is told to speed up the signing process. He nods when I ask him to sign the book he didn’t write and puts down “T. Miles Klee” on the title page, with sunrays shooting out of it. Collector’s item for sure. Without knowing why, I drum the back of his non-writing hand enthusiastically. It’s odd.
8:55 Feeling guilty, actually do buy a copy of Taipei on the way out.
9:05 Stop by reBar, where the afterparty is being held for no good reason whatsoever. Say goodbye to some people I never said hi to. Order a beer and drink it quickly and leave. It’s a long subway ride back to Harlem.
1:30 p.m. the following day: Place Taipei on my formidable to-read pile and notice the shiny typeface glinting on its spine. Seems faintly mocking.
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Photo: Canteen Mag.