brothercyst: odd accident

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

odd accident

So Tao Lin "accidentally" called me a faggot the other day. Or maybe his friend Zachary German called me a faggot, or maybe they both did.

I guess last week Tao and Zachary German said on their blogs that German's book was being published by FSG, which is clearly a put-on if you know that Tao regularly says his books/stories are being published by "corporate" magazines and presses when they aren't. (This is what Zachary German's writing is like.) But a writer from Ohio who neither of us knew, this fellow Eric (I know him a bit now from emailing, and he seems thoughtful, reasonable, and intelligent), read it and wrote a baffled/unimpressed post on his blog, believing the FSG claim to be true (as did many other readers, apparently). Tao linked to that post, so his friends went to Eric's site and "defended" him and German, saying "eat a dick" and calling him a fag and asking how dare he criticize geniuses.

I just read a little of that right before going to a reading at Melville House where Tao was in the lineup--I hadn't seen him in maybe six months. Weirdly, he read a story with me in it as a character, incorporating my emails and gmail chats. Afterward I finished reading the comments and they seemed so exasperatingly stupid/ugly that I posted, "Judgments of quality aside, many people posting here in "defense" of Tao could stand to be a lot less obnoxious about it..." A couple minutes later--although I didn't see it until the next afternoon--Zachary German wrote, "you are a have sex with other gay men like yourself" on my blog, and then "syke."

On Eric's blog, Tao said, "i don't approve of calling people faggots..." When I noted that his friend Zachary German had just called me a faggot, Tao said, "he typed that as a 'joke' just to show me on the screen then i accidentally pushed 'enter' or something." Accidentally! I'm laughing.

Anyway--what he means but isn't capable of saying, I think, is that he intended to do it at the time, but then felt stupid. The word "faggot" doesn't insult me in its literal meaning--would anyone in a modern liberal city be ashamed of being gay?--and I'm not hypersensitive to it (I've uttered it in my life, although never in a fight or argument), but the intention of using the word to someone's "face" in this way is clearly to insult/be aggressive toward them and the explanation of it as an accident takes the whole thing into the more absurd and vaguely comic zone of passive-aggression. *

*He was passive-aggressive when we were roommates, too, especially when it came to women. That is, he actually tried to harm my relationships. An example: around the time he moved in, I was seeing this woman who lived in the building. That ended, and then I started dating someone else, EJ. Much later she told me that early in the relationship we were at a reading and I got up from the table for a second. Tao took the opportunity to ask her, "Are you the one who lives in our building?" Now, he had met her before and knew exactly who she was and how I knew her. A different kind of weird thing--sometime before that, I once went to a reading with a woman, LA, who I was seeing at the time. Tao was there. He talked to LA for maybe a couple minutes. He seemed withdrawn as always and maybe intimidated (she was really tall and, well, kind of intimidating). Then LA and I left. Much later, I read his novel EEE, which I liked but which contains a scene based on that evening. The LA character is called "Lelu" and I'm called "Sean" and Tao is called "Andrew." As Tao wrote it, Sean is quickly disposed of and then Andrew and Lelu have a long, detailed conversation and go out for dinner with friends. Which, for obvious reasons, is a little weird.

He was also, I think, developing his "philosophy of life" during this time. His relativistic, "there is no good or bad and saying one piece of art is better than another piece of art is the same as racism" philosophy seems to come from impulses similar to those that lead to passive-aggression. He can't tolerate criticism so he constructs an elaborate philosophical justification for dismissing all criticism. He wants to publish people's emails, which he knows they'll consider a betrayal, on his blog so he claims that no information should ever be private because the absence of privacy reduces pain and suffering in the world. He wants his internet friends to attack people who don't like his writing, so he fumbles for philosophical defenses of their attacks.


Nathan said...

It's funny - I rarely read your comments, but I happened to yesterday and saw that one and wondered what it meant. Didn't seem like your kind of humor, but I figured it was an inside joke.

I also wondered if that was the correct way to spell 'syke.'

Nick said...

Yeah, I didn't notice it for a day--my comment emails go to an out-of-use email address--and for some reason (I'm not sure if this is actually true) I thought German was gay and part of the Dennis Cooper school so maybe joking?... I'm not sure, I haven't been up to date with all these guys in a long time.

RobinSlick said...

Oh hell..I just dropped by to tell you how much I enjoyed reading with you last night and look forward to your new book and I find this post instead.

What it all means, I'm not sure, but since, as I stated last night, I'm having such a crappy time myself, I am hoping it's all in good fun and it's nothing that is really pissing you off.

Fuck me, I can't tell...I seem to be missing a few more brain cells this morning, but if this isn't a joke and something that is pissing you off, I'm sorry...

And no, that is not how you spell syke. Unless her first name is Wanda and she's a really abrasive, unfunny comedian.

Robin (who will probably never have the honor of being in a Tao Lin piece unless he steals my name for one of his characters...but let me warn him in advance, two separate authors have already beaten him to it.)

Nick said...

Thanks Robin--that was a fun reading. And we got free stuff.

I'm not pissed off and I didn't really think about it until Tao said he had done it by accident.

Anyway, nice to meet you. Be well,

Tao Lin said...

90% or something of people who went from my blog to that blog didn't say 'eat a dick'

most people were calling noah cicero garbage and calling me and zachary silly and stupid and crap other things

justin rands, who has emailed me twice or something and who i blocked on gmail chat when he tried to gmail chat me, said 'eat a dick'

i have never met justin rands, i did not text message him telling him to go say 'eat a dick' on eric's blog, i don't have his phone number, i've only seen his face in the little square in his profile

i think blake butler said 'suck a black one,' but i don't understand, i'm not blake butler, i'm not zachary german, people are actually different people, we don't own remote controls to each other's brains and we don't own each other, we have legs, we walk around, we exist in different places, my post that linked to that post linked to five other posts i made in the past that is against name-calling and against shit-talking of art

for thoughts on zachary german's 'eat a dick fagtron' go to zachary's blog and read slatted light's comment and shai hulud's comment, both of those people are sexually attracted to men, and are more 'hurt' or something by your and other people's reponse to zachary's comment than zachary's comment, which makes me think it is more complex than what you type here, which is something i commented about on eric's blog

here are the comments that happened soon after i linked the post:

matthew said...
i like tao's writing a lot
April 9, 2008 5:02 PM
anna said...
i like tao lin's writing a lot too. also, i am overprivileged. i enjoyed reading all these people's comments
April 9, 2008 5:13 PM
Brandi said...
I'm also a fan of tao's writing. maybe it is because i am '23' and not 'mature.' i am okay with that.
April 9, 2008 6:14 PM
Daniel Bailey said...
i hope i can one day be famous enough to have people talk shit about me.

this critical blog is called MY HEART'S PORCH
that's all.
April 9, 2008 6:45 PM
Noah Cicero said...
i replied back
April 9, 2008 9:03 PM
Blake Butler said:
"this critical blog is called MY HEART'S PORCH
that's all"
I hope everyone here spends hours a day thinking about literature and blogs and criticism.

Tao Lin said...

i shouldn't have said 90%, i should have just listed everything that was said, i'm not sure exactly who told who to 'eat a dick,' there were a lot of comments

i didn't say 'eat a dick' and i don't approve of calling people faggots

i don't have a 'side' and i hang out with 2 people regularly lately, so 'one' could say that i have 2 friends really, and i don't look at them and assume they are 'on my side,' we just 'get along'

i don't know, this isn't lord of the rings, there aren't teams of people fighting each other, i like the writing and art and things of the 8 people i link to on my blog but it's not like we're a team fighting some other team

just look at the comments sections of my posts, a lot of the comments are neutral, factual observations, or non-sequiturs

Nick said...

What made me think about this was your explanation, not the word "faggot." Many people would say, "sorry, that was stupid, we were joking." But you explain it as an "accident," which is passive-aggressive, and it made me think about a lot of other things you've done that are passive-aggressive. There isn't really anything complex about anything Zachary German wrote...he just wrote like four or five variations of "you're gay" in different places. Not witty, not interesting, not smart.

Tao Lin said...

i can see how that is 'passive-aggressive' maybe, that must be just how i am because i didn't think about anything except explaining the situation clearly when i typed about the 'syke' and other things that happened.

i thought that if i said 'sorry, that was stupid, we were joking,' it would seem even worse, i don't know, that somehow seems even worse than just explaining what happened

i really did not remember if the girl lived in our building or not, or i think i did remember vaguely but only after i had said it, you know how awkward i am in social situations

and about the novel after a certain point of writing that i stopped thinking about any of the characters as real people and just did what i thought would be 'funny,' look at my other stories like 'christmas' and whatever, i think it's 'funny' when people keep suffering bad things endlessly inexplicably, that's sort of what i thought that scene was like in terms of that character

slatted light said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
slatted light said...

Hey Nick. This is Slatted Light, obviously, who Tao mentioned above. I don’t really know why I’m involving myself in this exactly and I guess you’d have every right to roll your eyes and not read this comment because I am a fan of Tao and Zach’s writing. I also did come to Zach’s defence in one place as the blog fight was going on. But if it has any bearing on this, I’m a fan of yours also. I read Fires and really loved it. In fact, I was sort of shocked when I realised that you were the same Nick that had written this book I had read not so long ago. It was a weird moment. So, anyhow, I hope maybe we can be friends online here or something, irregardless of this.

I was taken in by the FSG thing too. I still don’t fully get what it was all about but it embarrassed me a bit because I told the author Dennis Cooper on his blog about it and then it became a thing for me too because he thought it was true. So you know I could be pissed or something about the false rumour thing, though in a way I see it as a kind of ACT UP prank of a sort. Still, there’s no definite reason for me to be like a professional cheerleader for Zach and Tao or something. But I don’t bear any ill will for them. One day soon I think I will even write a thing on my blog talking at length about why Zach German’s writing is better than anyone I’ve seen online so far has given him credit. He is doing some exciting things to how we understand literature in my opinion.

But anyway I’m wandering off track. I wanted to post here in relation to this ‘faggot’ thing. Listen, what Tao is trying to say to you is that he and Zach were together at one of their homes, and this fight was already happening online. The shit-talking had already reached the point where Zach had said ‘eat a dick fagtron’ – which was a spin on Justin Rands more direct and dismissive and, yes, aggressive ‘eat a dick’ comment to Eric. You had said stuff. They were looking at your blog page, I guess. Zach typed the faggot thing to you in the comment box and said something like ‘imagine if I sent this’, meaning ‘think of how bad it would be if I did that on top of how out of proportion this thing has already got’. Tao probably went forward or something to make as if to send it, you know, watch out, and then he actually did by accident and they couldn’t delete it for whatever reason. So to make some correction, Zach said ‘syke’ rather than write in the comment box directly below it ‘im sorry, I did not mean to do this, it was an accident’, which basically wouldn’t have been believable to you, right? Even this explanation probably seems belaboured to you but don’t you think there’s an element of reality to it? People do stuff like this. They say ‘what if x, think of how bad that would be’. In this case, x actually happened when it was just meant to be a joke scenario between them about making this out of hand thing even worse. And then Tao made his mistake and it did get worse.

As for Zac’s other comments. I think on Eric Shonkwiler’s blog, Zach's remark was not really bullying but maybe more ironic in its tone, because it referred to Justin Rands’ thing and added ‘fagtron’ and ‘fagtron’ is meant to be flippant, don’t you think? Self-aware and jokey. Maybe it isn’t excusable even in that form. I don’t suppose I would want people coming to my blog and calling me names relating to my own sexual orientation or denigrating certain acts and persons in general, though I really disagree that Zac was making any homophobic statements intentionally or unintentionally. The thing is Eric Shonkwiler’s post was not neutral. Nor did it just express some kind of clinical non-emotive opinion. Let’s revisit some of the comments: in the context of the name of Zach’s blog, Eric said it made him “want to beat the piss out of him”, meaning Zach. Now this is a good example. This is hardly what I would call constructive criticism or impartial language. It is personal. It is also honest. Eric is expressing his opinion. That is the emotion that this aspect of the blog created in Eric Shonkwiler. Fair enough. But not really a personal provocation to him to warrant that remark about wanting to beat the piss out of Zach. I mean, why not write, “I find this offensive” or something. Why not? Because people speak emotionally and they say things in excess of their meanings or they speak the excess they feel. Also, did Eric saying this actually mean he would now fly from Ohio to NY to literally beat the shit out of Zach? No, of course not. No more than Zach telling him to eat a dick literally meant ‘go now and consume a cock, here’s a knife and fork’ and no more than ‘fagtron’ meant ‘you are a homosexual male that deserves my contempt for being a homosexual male’. It was an emotive expression in the heightening context, one I don’t particularly like I guess having been on the sharp end of it plenty of times, but one that did not get deconstructed endlessly in the moments or whatever he chose to post that. And like all insults on that blog, it was not some insight into everyone’s deep personal prejudices but a smartass suggestion of what Eric should be doing with his time rather than talking shit about someone as harmless and unresourced as Zach German. That point holds even if Eric had been under the impression that Zach was being published by FSG. Really cocksucking didn’t get a bad showing on the blog really because although everyone seemed offended by it, everyone seemed equally as interested in defending everyone else’s right to participate in it free of impunity. Haha.

The last thing the comment from Zach really was though was him coming in being a plain bully. It was hurt feelings or something on both sides, or so I read it.

Just as an addition to that, let me note some of the other things that were said about Tao, Noah Cicero and Zach before a single reader of Tao or Zach entered the discussion: Eric called Cicero ‘garbage’ and Zach ‘navel-gazing’ and his writing ‘not literature’. Eloise called it’ childish stuff’ and ‘narcissistic’ and ‘solipsistic’, ‘the future of literature for maybe next year’. Victoria Gothic said all Tao and Zach’s work show is ‘that life is banal for these people who already think the world is theirs for the taking’. She did not mean this in a critical context that illuminates what their work is thematically structured to talk about. She was just using the work to illustrate what she perceived as a property of the authors. Noel wrote this especially tiring comment: “When people write about the world and use it as a crutch to blame their problems on everyone but themselves, think of their literature as the person--you wouldn't bear to be in the same room with them for long, yes? Well their writing will fade as these type of people do.” Neon Bible said their stuff is “all about selfishness”, inexplicably pronounced that “Lin’s work shows no feelings for people” and called Zac “an imitator”. Jo: Zac’s book is “the fluff that stuffs hollow things and holes” and, in case the point had been missed, just “crap”. Eloise came in again with a post copied from Zac’s own blog to expose that post and the commenters on it to a collective ridicule, I guess. She calls herself the Queen of Pakistan. Um. It’s at that point you have the first defender of Zac come in, bored and indifferent.

Sorry to run that down in such tedious detail but the tedium is my point. There was hardly a diversity of opinion prior to comment thirteen or whatever and the one opinion that was accounted for was pretty intense from a certain point of view. It was only after thirteen that supporters came in to have their say and some were too vocal maybe and then Tao came in at some point and then Zac after. I don’t know. I don’t think their behaviour was immaculate or anything but I don’t know if they’ve been claiming that. At one point in the dispute, I think someone wondered somewhere about why Tao and Zac and others would even bother to come in and post because why should they care about what some random guy wrote to vent on his blog page. But I guess it’s hard not to intervene if through whatever sequence of circumstance you are shown this forum exists for a moment where your friends or you – but especially your friends – are being run down in a bad way. It makes you want to say something. And so the climate was already primed for trouble by the argument that developed from that. Zach came in when the whole thing had already lost its cool completely. It was like stepping into a room where crystal could break easy or something. And it has to be said that some of the commenters on the other side are quite pleased at how this all worked out. They feel the badness of Zach German has been transparently proven. They think they have the goods on him.

I’m not trying to absolve Zac and Tao and whoever else of blame or whatever. It’s not about that. It’s just these are people I ‘like’ in the sense of I follow some of the things they do online and I enjoy their writing a lot. It’s the same way I ‘like’ you say though I don’t even know you. And I’ve seen them say things that mean a lot to me. Like Zac German said recently ‘I envy every moment I don’t exist in’ which I thought was a very incisive description of a frame of thought I've had but have been unable to express. It helped me to read it. I personally think they owe you an apology of some kind but not for attacking you, just for the accident that involved you in a way that really shouldn’t have involved you but did. But, as strange as their responses have been, both Tao and Zac are ethical people. I think they care about this in some way or they wouldn’t even have bothered to continue talking about it to each other and in comments and stuff and making posts that relate to it and whatever else, including one where Zach was in a dress which (maybe I'm being homophobic now in saying this) I think was some effort on his part to even up the score, to risk embarassment on his part or whatever. Or maybe not. It shows that it was on their mind anyway, especially the wrongful calling of names element.

Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say about this and it’s the very last thing I’m going to say about it. I hope this may help clear some things about this situation up and bring, I guess, some unasked for but well intentioned mediation to the table. Sorry this was so long. Thanks for reading if you did.


PS. I just wanted to add that I am a huge Ellroy fan too. I really liked that thing you said about information in his books as an aesthetic tool in and of itself. It’s a great point that I’d never considered before. Information in Ellroy’s books is aesthetic and it is linked to addiction and this idea of the scramble for knowledge in his books where lives are kind of based upon the level of who and what one knows about the 'around them' and how that 'around them' shifts as an entire landscape each time new aspects of knowledge are added to confuse and clarify things. It’s almost as if the pure addictive need to know even sets in train such a state of pure disorientation. Or something like that. Anyhow. Thanks for that insight. It set me to thinking. And, by the way, I loved your phrasing too when you spoke about “the sheer density of incident”. That was wonderful.


Ha. Sorry to take this back to the above but I was just thinking. In a weird way that phrase could sum up how this whole blog battle has become so convoluted. “The sheer density of incident”.

Nick said...

Thanks for your astonishingly long comment. I did read it. I didn't post this entry to suggest that anyone's homophobic or to attack their writing (I even defended Noah's writing in particular in my original comment, and I like Tao's novel and some of his stories) but because the psychological and rhetorical contortions Tao attempted seemed so bizarre/dishonest/characteristic.

I think you impart more complexity to certain comments than they deserve. If someone criticizes your writing, dismissing it or offering a thoughtful rejoinder seem fair responses; just calling people "fag" a bunch of times--even if you tell yourself you're being ironic--suggests a lack of imagination and an inability to articulate anything. For what it's worth I gave German's writing a fair shot and couldn't find anything to like. If you know of anything that might appeal to me more than the e-book, let me know.

I'm glad you enjoyed Fires; thanks for saying so. I just looked at your site and it does actually appear that we have very similar tastes. Begotten is a movie I'm very fond of. My copy of it was just returned to me by mail from a friend to whom I'd lent it so he could play it on a giant screen at a Halloween party. I hadn't seen "Rubber Johnny" before--only the unforgettable trailer on the Chris Cunningham DVD. It's lovely.

slatted light said...

Hey Nick. Fair enough. I guess I think it's a credible to see more complexity in Zach and Tao's actions than you're going to grant but I've said all I have to say on this now. I appreciate where you stand on this and see where you're coming from. Yeah, Begotten is totally fantastic. I've been trying to hunt down a hard copy of it actually that isnt going to cost me a mint. I don't know if it'll interest you or not but I'll be writing and posting some stuff up on my blog about that film soon so feel free to check in if you like or whatever. And I'm glad you got to see 'Rubber Johnny'. It is lovely. Okay. I'd better take off. Sorry again for the length of that last comment. This thing has been convoluted.

Pat said...

Slatted Light,

You say that "Zac and Tao are both ethical people."

Not everyone would agree.

Some people believe that printing that your novel will be published by FSG with intent to deceive people that this is true when it is not, is unethical.

Some people believe that submitting previously published work to editors of webzines like Pindeldyboz which specifically say that they do not accept previously published submissions is unethical.

Some people believe that shoplifting is unethical and that is it unethical to urge others to shoplift.

Some people believe that publishing a story with the name of a real-life person such as "Marco Roth" in the title and as a character after that person has rejected your work -- and not telling the editors of the publication which printed the story and then had to change it -- well, some people believe that is unethical.

They may, in your opinion, be wrong about this. But being "ethical" is, of course, a matter of opinion, not a fact.

You're entitled to your opinion, Slatted Light. And other people are entitled to theirs.

Nick said...

Slatted Light--Thanks for your comments. We can cordially disagree. I cordially disagree with many people on many things. I am quite interested in your remarks on Begotten; I will keep an eye on your site and look out for them. Do you mean that you're looking for an actual celluloid copy or a DVD copy?

Pat--the Marco Roth thing has always bothered me because it seems like a sort of low-level, passive-aggressive harassment.