In a conversation with Chris Kenneally at the 2009 Miami Book Fair, the author of Shoplifting from American Apparel explains that when characters move from the real world to the virtual one and back, it’s the virtual world where they may be most honest about themselves.
“People’s facial expressions are not – are almost never – accurate to what they’re feeling,” says 26-year-old Tao Lin. “If I’m saying something that might offend someone, I’ll probably be grinning the entire time … and they’ll think I’m joking or something. But in an e-mail, the words are exactly what you mean.”
Lin concedes willingly that his latest work is autobiographical: “I was on my way to a reading, and I wanted a new shirt to wear, and I tried to just walk out with it, because that usually works with other things, but they had undercover cops, and they caught me… I was shoplifting a lot [at the time] to sell what I shoplifted on eBay as my main source of income.”