Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On "Bed" by Tao Lin ****

Just finished reading this book today. Having read it in four day, I found it a nice break after a long and eventually tedious diary that I finished reading last week. Bed consists of nine short stories by a at-the-time-of-its-publication twenty-three-year-old. I am a bit jealous but mostly amazed. I couldn't write that well at twenty-three, and I probably don't write as well even now (well over a decade later). About three of the nine stories in the collection were exceptional, including the first two; a couple were good; and the other four, well, I'm willing to dismiss them on account of the other stories (few story collections are consistently good, and even fewer have so many memorable stories). Lin has a style and voice that is unlike any other, writes dialogue that is crisp and surprising and metaphors that rarely fail to amuse. One of the best stories--the reason I'd discovered the collection--I'd read online a few months ago, about some guy breaking up with his girlfriend amid new terrorist scares. Another really good one, and seemingly the best on this read through the collection, was about a family in which all but one member died in pretty short order. Well, at least, that's how it starts. But then it backtracks, and you get this glimpse of the family through various tribulations until one glorious moment at the end, where everyone is happy, which is what makes the story ultimately so sad, because you know the disaster that is about to infringe on this one wonderful moment to which they've arrived. Precious times. Written by a twenty-three-year-old. How did he do it? I don't know. But I'm glad he did.

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