Notebook dump #1 (The Brandon Book Crisis)

Self-billed as a ‘thriller movie about photoshop,’ The Brandon Book Crisis actually consists of 140 pages of g-mail chats, e-mails, text messages, and other material relating to the printing of Brandon Gorrell’s Book by Tao Lin’s Muumuu House Press.

A bizarrely self-indulgent project, but also a showcase for Tao Lin’s gift for presentation, recontextualization, & timely self-exposure. From the cover—which duplicates the troublesome .psd file at the book that drives the book’s plot—to the climatic chat in which Lin & Gorrell plan out the entirety of the book itself, it’s a small gem of self-reflexive artifice. & yet its also painfully artless, an internet-age diary in which the most shocking secrets revealed are bits of data, [coordinating points in an information network]—e-mail addresses, phone #’s, user names & passwords—▼rather than personal markers.

It’s strange Lin & Gorrell’s affected pseudostupidity, their perversely proscribed vocabulary of ‘bro’ & ‘sweet’ & Wu Tang lyrics, does begin to grate after a while. Yet it’s also strangely, beguilingly intimate, watching the amateurish fumbling that goes on behind the slickly designed world of Tao Lin Inc—and of course let you into that world is the latest stroke in Lin’s masterful Warholian self-creation. The book is a limited edition of 150 (was it ever likely to sell more?) so that you can feel a little bit more cozily included—but self-aware enough even to mock this in with an index/glossary that levels all notions of ingroup/outgroup, glossing terms & names from the impossibly obscure (Muumuu House interns & Tao Lin’s anonymous blog commenters) to the ludicrously commonplace (facebook, Twitter, & “Jesus,’ helpfully defined as ‘a colloquialism indicating awe’). In an indie scene that exists largely on blogs, everyone is as in as they are out—everything is publically universally available & nothing is universally shared.

This weird little injoke is likely to be forgotten in the history of lit, even if Tao Lin & Brandon Gorrell are not. Yet in its own way it’s a masterpeice of the slight—or the sleight—a flick of the right mouse button that turns real conversation into reflexive commentary, totally fucking the boundaries between artifice & sincerity, public & private, narrative & annecdote, genius & just goofing off around.

If you look up ‘insouciant’ in the Free Online Dictionary there’s a link to Tao Lin’s profile picture.