Publisher: Melville House Publishing Release Date: 15/09/09 Website: The dilemma of the current 19 to 34 crowd made up of hipsters combines vast existential crises based on the air of false self-awareness with the pressures of modern living through technology. When not comparing new vinyl purchases or talking about obscure bands made up of friends, the hipster tends to willingly pose on the street or shop at American Apparel. What isn’t shown is the crushing ennui, the struggles of veganism, and the human side of what may be the most reviled caste of modern society. Enter Tao Lin – Hipster Runoff contributor, gimmick master cum entrepreneur, and one of the most interesting dull people in New York. His first novella (and fifth book), Shoplifting From American Apparel explores the facets of Lin’s life through his autobiographical mouthpiece and his friends, from their struggle to live to the minutiae inherent in daily motion. From the first sentence, “Sam woke around 3:30 p.m. and saw no emails from Sheila,” Lin’s style is recognizable. Gone is the lack of capitalization and minimal punctuation, but the short, choppy, SMS-inspired grammar and construction is there. Sam (Lin’s obvious persona) immediately goes to work, making food, doing calisthenics, Gmail chatting with Luis (again, obviously based on anonymous blog auteur Carles), and concluding, “We are the fucked generation.” No character is given time to develop, save Sam, and are instead treated like photos, crystallizing and encapsulating their personalities as they are in one fragment of time. Copious amounts of Gmail chat transcriptions make up the first third of the book, and by the time page fifty comes up, the short linear style of writing transcends annoyance or vagueness – the stylistic choices of Lin’s writing convey exactly how his characters live. Rather than reveal plot, it’s safe to say that the last lines of Shoplifting From American Apparel sum up the book’s ethos and provide an interesting counterpoint to the endless quest of Sam. “ ‘What did you want to be when you grew up?’ said Audrey. ‘Marine biologist,’ said Sam,” is telling and puzzling simultaneously. Sam’s entire raison d’etre is brought into question, while one nagging thing remains. Are the last lines a punch line? An honest response? A glimpse into why Sam did what he did? Lin himself says the book is “two parts shoplifting […], five parts […] relationship [issue],” and while that sums up the contents nicely, the relationships are fleeting and realistic, becoming more non-issue than issue in a matter of sentences. In fact, it only adds to why this work is so touching – it hits all the actual experiences most people have, but frames it in the context of a very small group of people. Not everybody will talk about a band called “Star Fucking Hipsters,9/10.