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Saturday, August 18, 2018

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Novel journeys into the surreal


Anyone who has ever questioned their existence should read Tao Lin’s Eeeee Eee Eeee. And with an alienated college grad as the main character, it could make a thoughtful graduation gift.

Andrew just finished college. He has no job, no friends and no funds. He moves from New York City back to his parents’ house in Florida and gets a job as a delivery guy for Domino’s Pizza. After a socially awkward experience of bringing some pizzas and his coworker Joanna to her house, a bear approaches Andrew and leads him down a secret passageway under a patch of grass to an underground world in which bears coexist with moose, dolphins, hamsters and aliens.

Enter the literary world of Lin’s Eeeee Eee Eeee ($14.95, Melville House), which is self-conscious, surreal and ambivalently nihilistic. The novel is at the same time heart-breaking and hilarious. Lin’s bleak and syntactically direct style undermines the notion of an overt social commentary, but the novel is chalk-full of it. The main character Andrew is lonely, alienated and pretty much spends all of his time pondering the absurdity of everything.

Eeeee Eee Eeee alludes to the absurdity of social etiquette, commercialism, unity, separateness, modern and post-modern thought and other binary philosophies – even meaning itself.

Take for example when Andrew meets the president of the United States, who is really just a bored alien in need of a goal. The president concludes that life is meaningless, but then questions: "If life was really meaningless you wouldn’t worry about things."

Andrew worries about a lot of things: Why his internet girlfriend Sara never comes to visit him even though she promised; why people confuse his jokes for complaining; why the bear never finishes the novel he is writing; and why the dolphin he is talking to murders Elijah Wood and then "drags Elijah’s corpse into a cave and then sits on it."

Tao Lin accurately depicts the mind of the socially isolated with his subject Andrew. Although the reader can recognize Andrew’s symptoms of the quarter-life crisis, Eeeee Eee Eee is far from your typically romanticized clichÈ of a novel that involves a graduate who doesn’t know what to do with the rest of his life.


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