CC Issue 24 / Literature

On Muumuu House / Selections from Tao Lin’s Twitter

If I were sixteen and after having walked into my job at [393 but later and mostly at] 1485 Portage Ave., McNally “Canada’s Largest Independent Bookstore” Robinson, then at 2hrs into my shift having completed several grunge-romantic hours of shelving and labeling books and then hearing from my friend Erik the surprisingly unpretentious art-history major/postmodern lit-lover about a new author he was devouring named “Tao Lin”, I would have dismissed this particular author and scene – that of the “Alt Lit” – after a couple days of trying and failing to find a certain type of meaning I was looking for at ~that time. The interesting part is that that’s exactly what happened, but I don’t regret it, but I don’t not. Don’t not yet.

Anyways, i’m fracturing, which is clear evidence that despite my initial aversion to the absorption of postmodern literature into the all-engulfing mother E-breast that is the internet, I have since given Alt Lit a beta piece of my heart.

For those unfamiliar with the “antics” of Lin and his Muumuu “cohorts” (Megan Boyle, Jordan Castro, Noah Cicero, Steve Roggenbuck & al./c.), they frequently tweet, write hypothetically (often on twitter) i.e. “wouldn’t it be weird if [insert actually incredibly witty and creative thought here]”, and employ quotations glyphs around words or phrases to alter their meaning or to challenge the reader to interpret these words or phrases anew. At least these are reasonable explanations for the glyphs’ admittedly excessive employment, something I’ll address in a moment.

The tone around Muumuu is necessarily casual and/or stuffed deliciously with internet jargon and/or slang, not unlike many of their postmodern predecessors. Lin actually draws quite a bit from the radical-abstract, -sensual rhetoric of postmodernists Thomas Pynchon, Zadie Smith, David Foster Wallace, Don DeLillo, William Gaddis (or realistically IMO “Pynchon et al.”, or, “Wallace et al.”).

Moreover, Lin & co. seem to have created a relatively refreshing literary wave, complete with its own rhetorical value set.

HOWEVER you can imagine that I would have been hypothetically surprised when I discovered this post on HTMLGiant by Jordan Castro, where he writes about Muumuu being a sort of safe haven from rhetoric, which draws like-minded writers together into an anti-mainstream cyber community in an attempt to “alleviate” a certain “depression” which he and his friends share, describing this method of alleviation as an alternative to drugs, or simply to “being depressed”.

If that’s Mr. Castro’s understanding of the relationships within his community, I don’t object. If that is the role Muumuu House has played for him, fine! But that is not the role which it plays in the broader modern literary community.

Okay, do you want to know what I think the excessive quotes are for, now?  What the choice of Twitter and the internet mean Re Muumuu’s function?

To me, it comes off as rooted in a peculiar fear that doesn’t involve counter-culture, or even depression in the aforementioned way. It instead operates as a mechanism for self-insulation against the Internet, and against the overwhelming force of irony on social media, as was predicted by DFW long before the days of Muumuu. B/c of this, new waves of literature are forced into an adaptation that is inherently toxic. It’s a little bit as if the Alt Lit mvmnt is designed to facilitate me putting up with the “antics” of meaningful people – who themselves are unable to articulate naturally or conventionally – instead of participating directly with meaning. The Alt Lit mvmnt is coerced into functioning this way, infinitely impersonal despite the intimate design of its rhetoric like “fractured light” that even though it looks the same you know on a very deep and destructive level has ALREADY PARTICIPATED with some other matter and the real mindfuck for me is that I don’t know why. IDK why we can’t articulate our “ideas” without putting quotation glyphs around them and tweeting them through a filter. IDK why the internet eats no0bs alive, and I have a feeling that it has something to do with Social Contract theory which is seriously scary if you’ve ever thought about Social Contract theory on any level at all, but it really, really (honestly) doesn’t matter.

B/c that is where the toxicity lies. The Alt Lit mvmnt can’t afford to consider the sources behind its tragic flaws. Tao Lin has ten thousand college kids listening to @grizzlybear on bandcamp and following him on Twitter, while the irony of their collective existence informs not only the nature of the way by which they experience literature, but also that by which they experience meaning generally.

If I were twenty and after having written this post for the Checkerboard Collective, and after having proofread it, shown it to my dad for father’s day, somehow in the spirit of father’s day, thought about Tao Lin and Jordan Castro and the future of Muumuu House and Alt Lit and “lit” in general, and after having noted how incredibly ironic and self-insulating this post really was due to the nature of the very media by which it will be distributed…well I really wouldn’t know what to “do” about it in the least.

tiny ironic glossary:



IDK……..I don’t know

IMO…….In My Opinion




Selected tweets from  Tao Lin ‏@tao_lin August 2011 – June 2012

  • “what if my name was ‘bobo,’ my parents could’ve easily done that, thinking it was an uncommon but respectable name” 10 June 2012
  • “was sort of ‘shaking’ my leg in an ‘idly tapping’ manner when i realized i’m not 100% sure if i saw ‘juno’ or not & my leg stopped moving” 06 June 2012
  • “I can imagine earnestly feeling like I meed to draw a graph or something on paper to be sure that 5900 is less than 9900” 26 May 2012
  • “I’VE REACHED 10,000 FOLLOWERS ON TWITTER!!! (congratulations re, email me your address)” 04 May 2012
  • “i want to rewatch ‘drive’ thinking it’s titled ‘killing rampage’” 28 Feb 2012
  • “imagined myself peacefully dying for unknown reasons while organizing a press conference to announce that my forthcoming novel is unreadable” 21 Dec 2011
  • “thought ‘just give me the fucking receipt’ while saying ‘thank you’ w/ a neutral face as a cvs manager said 2-3 ‘good night’-type phrases…” 13 Dec 2011
  • “feels like i’m being forced to live & work for minimum wage in a tiny, invisible room at the back of my head as a ‘manager’ for my mind/body” 15 Nov 2011
  • “thought ‘struggled to discern what to eat…’ in preemptive narration of my life while approaching the refrigerator at a normal speed” 03 Oct 2011
  • imagined a world in which i’d currently be smearing ‘freezing cold’ hummus ‘all over’ my face in preparation for [i’m not sure what]” 07 Sept 2011
  • “felt a desire for a ‘grainy’/~8-minute video of schopenhauer interacting w/ his poodle to exist then felt a desire for it not to exist” 10 Aug, 2011
  • “what if kafka was costa rican, lol” 04 Aug, 2011

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