Just A Timely Review of Tao Lin’s Shoplifting From American Apparel Or Something

Title: Shoplifting From American Apparel
Author: Tao Lin

112 pages
Publisher: Melville House (2009)

Buy The Book: Amazon


Set mostly in Manhattan—although also featuring Atlantic City, Brooklyn, GMail Chat, and Gainsville, Florida—this autobiographical novella, spanning two years in the life of a young writer with a cultish following, has been described by the author as “A shoplifting book about vague relationships,” “2 parts shoplifting arrest, 5 parts vague relationship issues,” and “An ultimately life-affirming book about how the unidirectional nature of time renders everything beautiful and sad.” (Summary excerpt provided by the publishing house.)

My Thoughts:

Recently, I joined The Rumpus Book Club(TRBC). TRBC is run by Stephen Elliott, author of seven books including The Adderall Diaries and Happy Baby. Each month club members receive an advance reader copy of an upcoming book and have the opportunity to participate in online discussions about the book. This includes an online chat with the author. The August selection is Tao Lin’s novel Richard Yates. Upon hearing this, I promptly bought everything by Tao Lin I could get my hands on including Shoplifting From American Apparel.

The novella, Shoplifting From American Apparel arrived in my mailbox over the weekend. It is part of a Melville House series entitled The Contemporary Art of The Novella. In Shoplifting From American Apparel Lin recounts a series of events and nonevents in the life of Sam, a writer and terribly unskilled shoplifter. Sam is a young hipster who peppers his speech with the word “like” and often ends his sentences with the phrase “or something.”  Lin tells Sam’s story through a procession of scenes devoid of most conventional structure.

Although Shoplifting From American Apparel is a novella, it leaves more room for thought and discussion than many full-length works. For this reason, it would be a perfect selection for  book clubs.This book was both funny and thought provoking. Some of the highlights of the novella include Sam’s observations in the holding cell after each of his shoplifting arrests, Sam’s Gmail chats with Luis, and an appearance by Moby. I found the Moby scene especially funny.

A reoccurring theme throughout the book is the vagueness of relationships developed on the Internet. Sam has some of his most intimate conversations with Luis over Gmail Chat. However, Sam noted that when he met Luis in person they didn’t have much to say to each other. Another instance of this ambiguity occurs towards the end of the book when Sam is unsure of whether to approach a friend he knows from the Internet. Lin skillfully handles the complexity of the isolating nature of relationships fostered through faceless, voiceless interactions on the Internet.

I have read articles where Tao Lin’s writing is compared to Douglas Coupland and Bret Easton Ellis. I can definitely see the comparisons.However, Lin takes the apathetic nature of the characters in Coupland’s Generation X and points it in a new direction. Sam’s indifference is fueled by MySpace, blogs, Gmail Chat, easy access porn and everything else the Internet brought to the fingertips of society’s latest band of disaffected youth. Smug self-satisfaction is normally a byproduct of indifference. I didn’t see that in Sam. He appears to be struggling with despair and boredom in his quest for an existentially sound life. Sam’s earnest nature is evident despite the vagueness of Lin’s work. I believe that is what makes Lin a contemporary master. The restraint he has shown as a writer in this piece is incredible. I highly recommend Shoplifting From American Apparel.


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McDonald’s Memoir is a Quick, Fun Read

Book: You’ll Never Blue Ball In This Town Again

Author: Heather McDonald

272 pages

Publisher: A Touchstone Book, Published by Simon & Schuster

Buy The Book: Amazon

My Thoughts:

Before this summer, I had never heard of Heather McDonald (my cable provider does not provide E!). However, apparently everyone else had. So, every bookstore I entered in the month of June proudly had McDonald’s book (on the cover she is lounging suggestively on top of a pile of blue balls) displayed front and center. I eventually gave in to temptation (unlike Heather, I’ve never been one to resist a blue ball) and purchased a copy.

Heather McDonald’s immorality tale of life as a perpetual “blue baller” during her twenty-something years is a funny read. At the beginning of the book, I was skeptical. I had trouble relating to the “hilarity” (maestro, cue up “Cause I’m a Blonde” by Julie Brown) of her days as a sorority girl at USC. But upon further reading, her sarcastic wit won me over.

Throughout the memoir, she recounts funny anecdotes regarding everything from how a “well intentioned joke about bulimia” backfired to a junior high misadventure featuring a teenaged Jason Bateman. Highlights in the book include her dating exploits involving dreamboat Vince Vaughn, Great Expectations dating service and a sociopath named Ben.

However, in spite of all the wicked humor, Heather ends her tale on a sweet note. “The Courtship of Mackenzie’s Father” and “The AARPs Next Door” discuss the trials of being a step- mother and Heather’s close relationship with her parents respectively. I think her writing is at its best in these two pieces. I enjoyed seeing the “softer side” of a woman whose written word is often sarcastic and delivery harsh. You’ll Never Blue Ball In This Town Again is a quick, fun read. A suitable accessory for hanging out on the beach and sipping a cocktail.


Feel free to leave a comment on this post and let me know what you’re reading currently.  Also, I love getting new Twitter followers and lots of Facebook “likes”!

Teen Wolf Two: Linger Packs Action in With The Angst in The Much Anticipated Sequel to Shiver

Title: Linger

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

360 pages

Publisher: Scholastic

Buy The Book: Amazon

The haunting poetry of Rilke? Check. Grace chugging coffee? Check. Isabel’s sharp barbs?Check. Sam still as perfect as ever? Check. Healthy dose of teen angst? Check. Absentee parents? Check While some things have stayed the same in Mercy Falls, there have definitely been some changes.

Linger (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 2) by Maggie Stiefvater, the follow-up to Stiefvater’s 2009 novel Shiver, brings the reader once again into the lives of Sam and Grace. This time around, the cure that was administered to Sam in Shiver seems to be keeping him from changing into a wolf. So everything should be great, right? Not quite.

Warning: This review contains spoilers.

Linger is far more complex than Shiver, and the result is a much better story. It is rare for a sequel to be better than its predecessor. So, Linger was a pleasant surprise. With the addition of a four point-of-view (POV) structure instead of a two POV (as in Shiver), comes a lot more action in addition to all of the emotional, “teen angsty” elements that made Shiver so great. But don’t get me wrong, the angst is still there in heaping portions sure to satisfy the most angst-craving teen (or in my case, adult) reader.

Readers of Linger will find Sam and Grace with a whole new set of issues to tackle. It was a nice change to see Sam and Grace dealing with some of their challenges individually and not primarily as one cohesive unit. Sam’s new role, caretaker for the werewolves that reside at Beck’s house, is added to his growing list of problems. Also, Grace’s newly wolfed-out friend Olivia is still “missing.” Of course, Sam and Grace know the truth: Olivia is actually a werewolf for the duration of the winter season and won’t be back for a while. This is the only storyline in the book that I felt could have been more developed. However, I assume that it was put on the backburner to be picked back up in Forever, the third book in the trilogy.

Also, Grace’s parents no longer seem to be quite the apathetic parents that they were in Shiver. They decide to take a stand with Grace, and ground her when it comes to their attention that Sam has been sleeping over. I was glad that Grace’s parents confronted her. I felt like that issue was swept under the rug a bit in the previous book. But, they still don’t seem to be that worried about the real issue that Grace is dealing with: her health. Throughout the book, Grace is suffering from horrible symptoms including fever, nose bleeds, and various aches and pains. This really doesn’t seem to concern them until the end of the book. As a reader, the lack of concern about their daughter’s health justifies to me the action that Grace takes towards the end of the book (i.e. running away).

Isabel returns with a much larger storyline. She and new wolf in town, Cole are the two added POVs. Isabel is busy dealing with grief over her brother’s death and with her complicated attraction to both Cole and Sam. Isabel’s burgeoning feelings for Sam is another storyline I look forward to seeing developed further in Forever.

Have I mentioned yet that I love Cole? The storyline involving complicated, bad boy Cole absolutely made the book for me. His flashback scenes that take place in Canada with his band NARKOTIKA are well-crafted and provide insight into the complicated past that made Cole want to escape everything and become a wolf.

As a mother, it’s funny to read YA literature from an adult perspective. I’m sure I notice all sorts of things that teen readers probably will not fret about in the least. Overall, I recommend Linger to teen and adult readers alike. I think the story has universal appeal, and I can’t wait to see the movie versions that are sure to be made of the books.


Feel free to leave a comment on this post and let me know what you’re reading currently.  Also, I love getting new Twitter followers and lots of Facebook “likes”!

Contact Information

Feel free to contact me via email or snail mail. Feel free to friend me on goodreads. And, for the love of God, please follow me on Twitter!

email: wellreadwife@gmail.com

mailing address: The Well-Read Wife, 45 Hardy Court #231, Gulfport, MS 39507

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I am currently accepting ARCs from all genres for review. Please see Review Policies for more details.

About Me



Welcome to The Well-Read Wife. My name is Mandy. I live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast with my husband Nate and my two sons, British and Bruce. I LOVE to read! In my spare time I also enjoy knitting, watching television, and working feverishly to instill a love of reading in my sons. I also love net casting and crabbing on my pier (we live on the water).


I have loved to read as far back as I can remember. As a toddler, I loved it when my mom and dad would read books like The Runaway Bunny to me. The Summer before first grade I took part in a Summer reading program at the local library. As part of the program, I had to keep a record of how many books I read. That Summer I read over 300 books. Later on, in the fourth grade I would begin to read classics like The Good Earth. By high school, I was an out of control book snob carrying around copies of books like On The Road and Generation X. Because, you know, they are so deep man… *cringe*

As I have gotten older, my reading preferences have changed. For instance, I read a lot more young adult novels now than I ever did as a junior high or high school student. I am also more open to authors of all genres. I love paranormal storylines of all types. I read numerous series in the paranormal, mystery, and romance genres. However, I still love to read the classics and new literary fiction as well.

My undergraduate degree is in English Education. After teaching middle school level grammar and writing for a few years, I quit teaching to become a stay at home mom. I love being a SAHM, but I look forward to devoting more of my time to writing about the literature that I love so much (and possibly some that I don’t love).

The Well-Read Wife

I started this site to share my thoughts on everything literature-related. Sometimes I write book reviews. Sometimes, I write about how books have affected my life. Sometimes, I write about gadgets that make reading easier (i.e. Kindle, Nook, etc.). Basically, if it has anything to do with books or reading, I’m going to write about it!

Why did I call my site The Well-Read Wife? Why not some other name? Very simply put, I am a wife and in my opinion, well-read. So when you come to this site, you know what you’re going to get: A married woman writing about what she likes to read.

Contact Information

I am currently accepting ARCs from all genres for review. Feel free to contact me via email or snail mail. And, for the love of God, please follow me on Twitter!

email: wellreadwife@gmail.com

mailing address: The Well-Read Wife, 45 Hardy Court #231, Gulfport, MS 39507

Twitter: http://twitter.com/WellReadWife