Friday, 11 February 2011

Eeeee Eee Eeee

In 'Mrs Dalloway', Virginia Woolf expertly conjured what it feels like to be in the mind of a wealthy middle class woman going about her business in London as she prepares for a party and meets and old flame. In 'Eeeee Eee Eeeee', a short, unusual book, Tao Lin expertly conjures what its like to be in the mind of a bored, depressed Domino's pizza worker in Florida who misses his ex-girlfriend and feels like he has no future.

There is lots of repetitive language, several beautifully written passages of whimsical daydream-philosophising, and lots of bears and mooses. Tao tries to describe the aim of the book in this interview:
Eeeee Eee Eeee is written from an existential point of view, meaning it tries not to block out any information. Or that is how I wanted it to be. In order to have morals one must block out information and make assumptions. Eeeee Eee Eeee does not have morals. It doesn’t teach you anything. Or maybe it does. Since I wrote it instead of killing myself or taking anti-depressants and watching TV every day maybe that means the book is life-affirming. If you look at both me and the book then maybe the book is moral and teaches you something. If you look at just the book, it doesn’t teach you anything.
Here's some of the passages that struck me as interesting:
What frightened him (although sometimes calmed him) was the first of those thoughts, about not knowing how to be happy; there was something irreversible about it, except possibly by potion or true love, like in every movie by Disney, as it was like a fairy tale in that sketched out, theoretical way. But it was a fairy tale gone wrong, without any domestic whimsy or fast-moving plot, and in real time, without any pleasant summations of long periods of despair, loneliness, and ennui. It just didn't seem good, or allowed.
Near the end, there is a long monologue by the 'president':
Why are we born? Why do we die? Where do we go when we die? Where did consciousness come from? Politics does not acknowledge those questions. Politics says 'Have we blocked out enough information so that the word "progress" has meaning? How do we distract from the mystery and oneness of existence?'. Politics is a pretend game where it is very important to block out the information that it is a pretend game. I'm the president, I think. There is no good or bad. You arrive. Here you are. No one tells you what to do. So you make assumptions. Or you believe someone else's assumption. A common assumption is that pain and suffering is bad. But how do you know if an action will increase or decrease net pain and suffering in the universe from now until the end of time? You can't know. Impossible. You don't know if drawing your friend a picture will or will not cause fifty thousand years of suffering to ten million organisms on Alpha Centauri one billion years from now. So you create context. A common context is one's life plus the next few generations, not including animals, plants or inanimate objects, and only on Earth, with the emphasis on one's own country. So now you've made an assumption and also blocked out more than 99.9% of the universe, 99.9% of all life on Earth, and an infinite or unknown amount of time.
Most of the book isn't like that though, most of it is about pizza, boredom, and bears carrying blankets. Its a short book though, so the strangeness casts a spell rather than becoming a burden.

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