NYU Alum and Writer Tao Lin Comments on Conjecture That He Is Hipster Runoff

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Hipster Runoff is “a blog worth blogging about.” Its anonymous author, who signs off as Carles, trades in scare quotes, the meme economy and party pics. His post-ironic blog babble—laced with intentional internet typos and Pitchfork-approved name-drops—feigns a lack of self-awareness that manages to sharply critique the young, urban largely white (and AZN) set. You know the type. You probably are the type.

Tao Lin is a poet, novelist and blogger living the post-graduation dream of approximately 17,436 NYU students. He is a working writer living in New York City whose subject matter is painfully relevant, ranging from Gchat to Haley Joel Osment. He reportedly writes from Bobst. His upcoming novella is called Shoplifting From American Apparel. I happen to think that he is Hipster Runoff and I am not the only one.

Bouncing the theory off of a few friends, I usually received a “…you could be right!” reaction, but never pushed the issue. Yesterday, the blog Hipsters United collected a ton of speculative and circumstantial (but oh so convincing!) evidence [via Vulture Blog], including but not limited to similarities in writing style, graphics and interests, as well as the budding internet friendship between the two. They trade blog comments, Tweets and syntactic tics, coming off as indistinguishable in entries like this one about the ‘existence’ of interns on Lin’s website.

Today, on NYU Local, Tao Lin responds to the ‘accusations’.

You may have been outed but I think it was intentional. Between the upswing in comparable graphics, the poetry contributions and the Twitter repartee it’s almost as if you’ve been asking for this. Maybe this project has reached its logical terminus. So let’s continue to do this on your terms: Are you Hipster Runoff?

picture-14Hipster Runoff is “Carles.” I know “Carles” “all too well.” I wrote a short-story about “Carles” in 2006, it’s the fifth story in my story-collection, BED (Melville House, 2007). We were “living together” at the time. “Carles” really is “just a standard bro.” He did “Teach For America” for four days. He works for a Fortune 100 company.

My forthcoming novella, SHOPLIFTING FROM AMERICAN APPAREL (Melville House, 2009), out in September, elaborates a lot on my relationship with “Carles.” How he has plans to “preemptively” “fall back” on his trust fund in 2010. How he sometimes has suicidal thoughts. “Carles” is really funny. I’m a vegan and one time he sewed pieces of pork onto the “backside” of my kale.

If not (or even if so) why do you think people believe that you are him and he is you? Do we just have a need to fill the void left by an anonymous presence in our internet lives?

I think people want to combine everything into one thing, to save time. Sometimes “too many brands” appear on the computer screen and it looks weird, and people get depressed. Or maybe people see that “we are both ‘bloggable memes’ that are worth covering because we attract visitors to websites.”

Does being a funny blogger mean people will take you less seriously as an author? Could this be a reason for the anonymity?

I already knew from an early age, like 7 or 8, that the Canon was closed off to me. When I look at the Library of America’s website I only hear Philip Roth laughing at me. But I “don’t believe in the concept of ‘humor’ and ‘Carles’ probably doesn’t either. It’s hard for me to believe he is trying to be ‘funny’ because I think he’s just trying to be _______.”

Tao Lin Body

Great minds of an era are doubtlessly influenced by one another. If you claim to be separate entities, would you say that Carles’ writing has influenced your style or vice-versa? Which of you started with the scare quotes and vaguely rhetorical questions?

Like most autistic people “Carles” looks “not at ease” in society, uses “scare quotes” and “vaguely rhetorical questions” often and naturally, and almost always has a neutral facial expression, even while eating Big Macs. If an influence must be cited it would be MSG, which is inside almost every food product in America, and causes autism, according to some studies.

Have you ever met the ‘real’ Carles?

“Carles” and I have “hung out” many times. Almost my entire history regarding “Carles” is in my next book, SHOPLIFTING FROM AMERICAN APPAREL (Melville House, 2009). Bookforum says it’s the book where I “finally master the flashback.” I strongly feel that it’s a “reveal all” book.

I last saw “Carles” a few days ago when I flew to Texas using my mom’s Delta Skymiles. We were going to work on a project but I got really depressed in my motel room and ate ~10 Stonyfield Farm yogurts and passed out. But then I woke up and worked really hard, I finished a mock-up, and “Carles” and I actually completed our project on the way to the airport. We actually finalized the project in the security line to get into the terminal.

Who owns more American Appy?

I own 800 shares of APP. I’ve “lost thousands” on APP. I think “Carles” “unloaded” his 30,000 or whatever shares last September and is now heavily invested in ATVI.

Most importantly, is Hipster Runoff written from Bobst?

“Carles” has never left Texas.

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  1. matt mcquirk says

    Carles graduated from Tulane and majored in English. He attended graduate school at NYU with Tao, which is where they became friends. He went by “Matthew” at NYU, which is why the Carles moniker is deceptive.

    I actually had a journalism class with them, the one where Tao impersonated Jonathan Safran Foer on a blog.

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