In September 2009 Lin's novella, Shoplifting from American Apparel, was published to mixed reviews. The Guardian said, "Trancelike and often hilarious… Lin's writing is reminiscent of early Douglas Coupland, or early Bret Easton Ellis, but there is also something going on here that is more profoundly peculiar, even Beckettian." The Village Voice called it a "fragile, elusive book." Bookslut said, "it shares an affected childishness with bands like The Moldy Peaches and it has a put-on weirdness reminiscent of Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You." In an interview aired December 2009 with Michael Silverblatt on KCRW's Bookworm Silverblatt called the novella "the purest example so far of the minimalist aesthetic as it used to be enunciated" and Lin described the novella's style as deliberately "concrete, with all the focus on surface details, with no sentences devoted to thoughts or feelings, and I think that results in a kind of themelessness, that, in its lack of focus on anything else, the theme becomes, to me, the passage of time." In December 2009 clothing retailer Urban Outfitters began selling Shoplifting from American Apparel in its stores.
Set mostly in Manhattan—although also featuring Atlantic City, Brooklyn, GMail Chat, and Gainsville, Florida—this autobiographical novella, spanning two years in the life of a young writer with a cultish following, has been described by the author as “a shoplifting book about vague relationships,” “2-parts shoplifting arrest, 5-parts vague relationship issues,” and “an ultimately life-affirming book about how the unidirectional nature of time renders everything beautiful and sad.” From VIP rooms in hip NYC clubs to central booking in Chinatown, from NYU's Bobst Library to a bus in someone’s backyard in a college-town in Florida, from Bret Easton Ellis to Lorrie Moore, and from Moby to Ghost Mice, it explores class, culture, and the arts in all their American forms through the funny, journalistic, and existentially-minded narrative of someone trying to both “not be a bad person” and “find some kind of happiness or something,” while he is driven by his failures and successes at managing his art, morals, finances, relationships, loneliness, confusion, boredom, future, and depression.
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