A worthy read: Tao Lin’s “Eeeee Eee Eeee”

Perhaps the finest book to ever feature so brazen a back cover description:

Confused yet intelligent animals attempt to interact with confused yet intelligent humans, resulting in the death of Elijah Wood, Salman Rushdie, and Wong Kar-Wai; the destruction of a Domino’s Pizza delivery car in Orlando; and a vegan dinner at a sushi restaurant in Manhattan attended by a dolphin, a bear, a moose, an alien, three humans, and the President of the United States of America, who lectures on the arbitrary nature of consciousness, truth, and the universe before getting drunk and playing poker.

And how!

“Eeeee Eee Eeee” is a winding book of alienated youth and modern despair (sometimes gleaned through moribund, talking hamsters), the sort of subject matter we don’t really need to see more of, at least not in its typical iterations. We do, I think, need to see more books that are written like this, and these books (referring… to this book) need to see a bigger audience.

Some of the reviews I’ve stumbled upon for “Eeeee Eee Eeee” have been kind of messy and nonsensical. That’s probably because this book is God damn strange (in many ways). Does saying such mark me as, uh, aggressively plebeian? There’s a sequence wherein the “main” character Andrew drives a dolphin to Target, you know. Here’s a taste:

The dolphin goes into the center of a circular clothing rack and quietly cries.

Andrew looks around.

He goes home.

The dolphin cries a while then buys a steak knife.

The dolphin goes home.

It looks in the mirror.

It puts the tip of the steak knife perpendicular to its neck and grips the handle hard.

It stares in the mirror.

It puts on a jacket, takes a plane to Hollywood, and finds Elijah Wood.

‘Come somewhere with me,’ the dolphin says.

‘Can I get a river ride?’ Elijah says.

‘Hold onto my flippers.’

Elijah climbs the dolphin’s back.

‘You are fucking stupid. Hold on when we get to the river,’ the dolphin says. ‘Not in the fucking parking lot.’

Then they go to an island cave and the dolphin clubs Elijah Wood to death. A bear enters dragging Sean Penn’s corpse, which “makes little coconut sounds against the cave floor.” When we meet the President at the book’s “climax,” he says things like “Now I’m the president. I have no human preconceptions, because I’m from a different galaxy. Listen to me, since I’m the ruler. You chose me. People need to process what I say. I’m the — I’m the fucking president,” and “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.” His cell phone makes “coconut sounds” when it rings.

Most connections in this book are kind of like that – specific cues that discreetly recall these sort of bizarre, abstract ideas that occur elsewhere in this story about young people feeling terrible things. When you pass the novel’s 32nd page, you discover that you are now on page 153. Page 184 turns into page 65. You will read on from that point until you arrive linearly at page 153 again. And then the book continues and finishes on page 211. There are no pages 33 – 64.

I hope this is not the result of a specific printing error, because – egg on my face – I decided this dilapidated structure had LITERARY SIGNIFICANCE. It mirrors quite nicely the bored confusion and aimlessness of “Eeeee Eee Eeee”‘s cast. You don’t really understand what’s happening at first, but you roll with it because the prose is gripping, because the book doesn’t make sense in a way that doesn’t really matter, because each page is ostensibly kind of the same as most other pages. But when you are forced to revisit the pages after trudging through the bulk of “Eeeee Eee Eeee”‘s surreal mess, they’re re-contextualized and pack an emotional punch that was purposefully vacant previously. It’s really a nice little experiment that reminded me of “Mulholland Drive” in some ways. And since that’s a recent favorite movie, it stands to reason that this is bound to be a recent favorite book.

In any case, this is a short, razor sharp piece of catharsis for anyone (I imagine) that’s found themselves disaffected in the 21st century. “Eeeee Eee Eeee” is often hilarious – sort of in a grim way that you think twice about, sometimes – but ultimately poignant in satisfying can’t-put-your-finger-on-it fashion. It’s a quick read. You ought to try it.

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