Read a F*cking Book: Reading Rainbow Fall Book Preview 2009


Shoplifting from American Apparel

By Tao Lin

Melville House
Sept 15


Actual Review of Shoplifting From American Apparel by Marie “Riese” Lyn Bernard

I just finished reading all 102 pages of Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin. Other books I’ve read by Tao Lin include his poetry you are a little bit happier than i am (which I reviewed on my blog Autowin) and the first 10-15 pages of his novel Eeeee Eee Eeee. I was at page 115 of his short story collection Bed, which I think is really good, when I got Shoplifting From American Apparel in the mail and decided to read it.

What happened in this book? The description in Shoplifting From American Apparel‘s press packet avoids nailing down plot points. Instead, it names settings (Atlantic City, NYC, Gainsville, Florida and the post-post-modern “location” of Gmail Chat) and specific locations (‘VIP rooms in hip Clubs,’ the NYU Library, central booking in Chinatown); identifies themes (the “unidirectional nature of time rendering everything beautiful and sad,” “class, culture and the arts”) and attitudes (‘funny, journalistic, ‘existentially-minded’); and quotes Tao Lin’s own evaluation of the book as, “2 parts shoplifting arrest, 5 parts vague relationship issues.” It’s about a guy named ‘Sam’ who is clearly ‘Tao Lin.’

I’m gonna talk about myself (Riese) right now for a second

Once I was ‘arguing’ with Autostradle COO Brooke about the “added value” of publishing a “Lady Gaga-Related Dress of Guns Conspiracy Theory” short story that I’d written in collaboration with Internicaine Katrina Casino, Intern Hot Laura and Intern Emily Choo on Autostraddle as a ‘Daily Fix’ between the hours of 3 AM and 6 AM and then taking it down and somehow I chose to cite Tao Lin’s declaration on Bookslut that he was writing a novel called Statutory Rape starring Haley Joel Osment and Dakota Fanning* as evidence of the ‘acceptability’ of using Real Celebs in short stories and the ‘added value’ of ‘internet stunts’ in general** and she told me I’m not allowed to cite Tao Lin anymore as evidence of why I should do anything. I let Alex read the Lady Gaga story in an early incarnation and she said it was really bad and had been funnier when I’d explained it to her on the phone. I told my therapist about the story and she asked me if I was stoned.

[* according to HTML GIANT, when publishing pieces of the novel in lit-mag NOON, “NOON’s lawyer made [Tao] change [the names “Haley Joel Osment” and “Dakota Fanning”]–they were worried.”]

[** I also mentioned the works of Miranda July & Lydia Davis, who Brooke did not object to or seem interested in]

Nevertheless, I trekked from my room (where I am alone) to the living room (where Alex & Brooke are) to whine about this book review.

Me: I am so bad at writing book reviews, or writing movie reviewstheater reviews, art reviews, music reviews … I’m done with the book post except this book review.

Brooke: You know what, I think you spend too long on everything anyhow.

Me: I know

Alex: This is like that style post where you said you were so bad at writing about fashion & you didn’t know how and then it was like, completely awesome.

Me: That’s because I copied down 100 adjectives from fashion magazines while I was getting a pedicure because I think the problem is I don’t know enough adjectives, I need to have more adjectives at the front of my brain ready to be utilized.

Brooke: How do you do that?

Me: I don’t know, a workbook or something

[I forget some stuff we said here]

Me: … and then I read all these other book reviews online, which are mostly ‘negative’, and thought about how good all these book reviewers are, and how I’m jealous of their goodness and wished they worked for me, and how I think I am a ‘good writer’ but am bad at reviewing

Brooke: All the reviews are negative?

Me: Well I mean, ‘mostly’, like not negative but like, skeptical, anyhow I don’t think he cares, that’s not the point, I mean I think that’s what pisses critics off, that he genuinely believes all publicity is good publicity, he’s like really honest or something, or unashamed, like he’s fucking with you, which as you know is something I love like haha literary critics I made you read a 110 page book about thoughts I had in my head where nothing really ‘happens’ or haha I made you sit through a reading where I read “Tonight we ate a whale” over & over 40,000 times*, you know, like it’s a commentary on culture [I point at the three Andy Warhol posters on the wall in the living room], like Andy Warhol photocopied a bunch of soup cans and people bought it, Andy Warhol changed the world, like a commentary on pop culture, and Tao Lin is making a commentary on hipster culture/cyberculture, which I am obsessed with and therefore always impressed by his stunts/actions and then the books as secondary material**

[*exaggeration/misrepresentation to make Tao Lin seem ‘cooler’, in truth he read “the next night we ate whale” only 4,000 times]

[** His short story book, which’s more traditional format-wise, is amazingly solid however and I imagine critically ‘positively’ received. My ex-girlfriend also likes his short stories and she’s very tough to please, she only likes Elif Bautman and James Joyce.]

Brooke: But how successful can he be if doesn’t make any money, didn’t you say he had to sell his drawings on ebay?

Me: I thought that was cool that he did that

Brooke: I know you did, we can’t talk about this

Me: Well, he’s only 25 and he’s published four books, he’s really smart, and really good I think he makes  money maybe he’s not ‘good a money management’* but you know, he started his own publishing house, MuuMuu House. He owns that. And has a ‘sponsorship deal’ with Hipster Runoff.**

[* I don’t know why I said this]

[**I don’t remember where I got this info from or if it was true or what it means]

… and has a lot of interns

Brooke: So do you

Alex: Well, I know you think he’s like part of this ‘movement,’ and you can argue with me like about Rothko [nobody puts Rothko in a corner so i can’t transcribe the rest]…

Me: All I’ve written so far is, “my girlfriend would hate this book.”

Alex: Yeah, I think Tao Lin is a smartass asshole prick!

Me: I think you would read four pages and throw it against the wall and yell something

Alex: Yeah, I would

Brooke: Well did you like it?

Me: Of course I loved every minute of it, because I am also a young hipster-ish overeducated ‘up-and-coming’ writer — like, not one-tenth as successful as Tao Lin at all but anyhow — anyhow like Tao Lin I’m also a lonely, ostensibly socially awkward, internet-addled semi-hipster living in New York City with a college degree from a ‘good school’ but ‘unstable employment situations’ who thinks more than everyone else thinks and feels detached from social situations and feels the internet is weird and should be made fun of and I also have suffered from serious depression and less-serious alienation despite the fact that the circumstances of my life have not been ridiculously depressing and also for some reason I think other people want to hear all the thoughts from my head on twitter so it was like reading my thoughts but by a much better writer, I underlined a lot of things, I felt it had a lot of insights, for me it was like porn. Shoplifting From American Apparel was like porn for my ‘feelings’ & my little baby mind

Brooke: You should write that then, write what you just said to us

Me: Ok

‘Everyone’ ‘should’ read Shoplifting from American Apparel, it’s short and tasty like a snack

Pages: 1 2 3See entire article on one page

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3228 articles for us.


  1. I devoured Kathy G’s book in 2 days and it is hands totes down the most entertaining celeb memoir I’ve read (and I own Out of Sync and both of Rosie’s books).

  2. greatest book review i’ve ever read.

    i’d also like to point out that we may or may not have been stoned while coming up with the lady gaga theory and therefore your therapist may or may not be right.

  3. I really want to read the AS Lady Gaga story. Like now.

    Also… My Invented Life, Shoplifting From American Apparel, and Girls’ Studies are at the top of my list for reading this fall. You guys have an awesome track record for book recommendations (I still feel indebted to Riese for introducing me to Stephen Dunn).

    • i feel the same way re: stephen dunn, dawn. i accidentally typed “damn” first. probably because i feel that passionately about him.
      i want to read so many of these books!
      i am apparently v. illiterate today because i thought riese said she needed a “wordbook” instead of a “workbook.” but now i really like the idea of having my own little dictionary of words to use in the future.

  4. ‘everyone should read shoplifting from american apparel, it’s short and tasty like a snack!’

    Do you include people over 40? Do you honestly think anyone over 40, or maybe 35, or maybe even 30, who is an adult should read this book?

    Can you imagine anyone 40 or over like it?

    I mean, there are young writers people of any age can read. Tao Lin isn’t one of them, is he? Would anyone you know over a certain age actually appreciate Lin? Why? You’ve based your liking your book on your own situation being like the author’s. What about people who are totally unlike him?

    • I think if you read the rest of the review, you’d understand that statement in context as facetious. For starters, I compare it to a snack, and books are clearly not snacks. For finishers, the rest of the review points out that I don’t know who will be into it.

    • wait are these real questions or are they rhetorical questions? it seems rhetorical
      ’cause you sound upset at me, but if you are actually asking them, i can try and answer, though I think it’s always dangerous to divide people into different mentalities by age.

  5. My GF got me Kathy Griffin’s book for my birthday. It came over the weekend. I haven’t started it yet because it has been implied that I must finish reading the library books I’ve had for weeks BEFORE reading any new books or else my relationship will suffer. But I did sneak a peek at the first page. I LOL’d at the first sentence!

    Two observations from the book review:
    1) It’s a good thing Brooke is COO and
    2) You’re really good at book reviews. Don’t compare yours to other book reviews. They’re boring…you’re not.

  6. AHhhh I wanna read ’em all! I feel so Sylvia Plath: “I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.”

  7. this is a great book for all ages
    its small so children can easily hold it as they read
    its short so old people can finish it before they die

  8. Thanks for the Girldrive shoutout. I know I’m superlate on this, but can you please correct my name? It’s “Nona Willis Aronowitz” not “Norma Willis-Arnowitz.” I’d really appreciate it, thanks!

  9. Has anyone heard of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy -The girl with the dragon tattoo, The girl who played with fire, and the latest one is coming out in the states 2 years later than the rest of the world, in October 31st, The girl who kicked the hornets nest.

    I started reading the first book in when I left Sydney, and finished it 15 hours later in Java, my eyes hated me for it, but I could not put it down.

    The heroine, Lisbeth Salander is possibly the hottest, most bad ass-est, girl in the history of girls who likes girls.

    Anyways …. jsyk.

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