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Tan Lin’s coffee table book for librarians
When it comes to reading a book, a few things – titles on the front cover, text that is generally meant to read from beginning to end – are taken for granted. Yet in Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking: [AIRPORT NOVEL MUSICAL POEM PAINTING FILM PHOTO HALLUCINATION LANDSCAPE], poet Tan Lin challenges the conventional reading experience by toying with fundamental ideas about genre and language.
Lin’s “modular” volume – which he considers a “coffee table book for librarians” – examines how the fragmented and cursory nature of online reading has altered the way books are read. “This, in some ways, is about translating a printed book into an online reading environment, which privileges communication and information transfer more than what we consider literary writing per se,” Lin said in an interview with Colin Marshall on Marshall’s blog The Marketplace of Ideas.
The book’s short chapters, meant to be consumed in the same pick-and-choose style of a cookbook, were intended to appeal to audiences beyond the niche poetry market. In the following interview, Lin discusses crossing the lines of categorization, and why breaking the “social agreement” inherent in genre can both help and hinder a book’s success.
Listen to the whole thing here.