The sound of a squealing schoolgirl at the idea of ponies and stickers and pop music. This is the sound of one of my favourite novels. Well, actually, it’s the sound of dolphins talking, but it’s not like that really matters. Eeeee Eee Eeee, by Tao Lin, is one of those books you read that reads like it’s not meant to be funny but is really funny. It sort of reads like it’s not meant to be anything much at all.
The third person narrator in this books is the biggest bullshitter I’ve come across in my history of reading books. It’s not like he’s telling a story that’s inherently riddled with real-world flaws, like orange midgets working in a chocolate factory or white rabbits wearing clothes and being late for appointments or a pickle making a spaceship out of pickles and flying to a planet full of pancake people to find happiness. Even the most unbelievable events can seem believable if told convincingly.
The novel really has its appeal in the way the narrator seems to just not care whether his story makes sense or not. It’s set in a real world place and the protagonist has a real world job, but there’s no effort put into introducing a talking bear into the story to make that part seem believable. And that aspect of the novel filters down the chain to smaller and smaller issues that gradually feel more bullshit the further into the book you get.
The way the characters talk feel, at times, void of all emotions, like they’re all just channelling the voice of the narrator. And I think this is where Tao Lin loses a lot of people. It’s a whiny depressed, sarcastic novel where every character is depressed and sarcastic and you just couldn’t give a shit about them. It would be easy to assume that this whiny, depressed voice is Tao Lin’s and that this novel is just his need to project his existential problems out onto the world so that they can cringe and bash him mercilessly for being so pathetic.
While his poetry is more or less running along the same vein, I do not believe that this narrator is not a vehicle for Tao Lin’s own problems. The humour of the novel flows through the sheer frustration and stupidity of the depressed and sarcastic characters, and the uncertainty of the narrator and the large chunk of the book that forgets about the main character entirely to talk about something else. At the end, you are nowhere. It’s not a journey with a beginning, middle, or end, no plot, climax, resolution. No development, no denouement. All there is to this novel are the words. The rhythms and poetics, the fallibility and deadpan tone of every character and imagined character, the pointlessness drivel, it’s just so wonderfully refreshing to read something that’s doing stuff different and really getting under peoples’ skin and making them feel uncomfortable or frustrated or depressed.