Oriana's Reviews > Eat When You Feel Sad

Eat When You Feel Sad by Zachary German
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Mar 10, 10

bookshelves: the-new-new-new-new-thing, read-2010, book-i-hate-you
Read from March 07 to 08, 2010

final note / disclaimer: Zachary, if you ever read this, please know that I'm not trying to hurt your feelings. I mean, fuck, you're a published author, right? And I'm just a bitter bitch snarking on a book review site. And furthermore, you must know that what you're writing is going to be pretty polarizing. So um. I'm not sorry, because I mean every word of this very vitriolic review. But I'm sure you're a good dude, and obvs I'm just not your target audience. And please continue to be nice to my boyfriend, because he had nothing to do with this. Ok?

OMG update: So it turns out that my boyfriend, who is a dog-walker in Midtown, freaking knows Zachary German (at least glancingly), who is also a dog-walker in Midtown.

Ooooh shit. I am starting to feel guilty about this. Should I take the review down?

just finished: Let there be no confusion: I hated the shit out of this stupid fucking motherfucking book.

Eat When You Feel Sad is the diametric opposite of everything that is beautiful and important about literature.

I know that’s a serious claim, and I don’t make it lightly. Honest.

Before we go any further, I’d like to let Zachary German go ahead and speak for himself. Here is a random paragraph from a random page that I opened to in this book. (I swear that I’m not being unfair; this is exactly what the entire hundred-odd pages is like.)

Robert plays the song “I’m Insane” by Sonic Youth. He nods his head. Robert looks at his cat. He puts on shoes. He puts on a light sweater. He looks at his apartment. He walks out of his apartment. He walks down the stairs. He walks outside. He walks to a thrift store. He looks at a children’s book about time. He looks at a vintage LaCoste tennis shirt. He touches the shirt. Robert walks outside. He walks to his building. He walks upstairs. He walks into his apartment. Robert walks into his bedroom. He looks out the window. Robert closes the curtains. He lies on his bed.

(That was me taking a few deep breaths before spewing bile all over this fucking screen.)


(pant, pant) Okay. Okay okay. Sorry. Okay. I’m calm.

When I saw that Tao Lin endorsed this tiny little flit of a book, I should have known. I should have known. Tao Lin and now Zachary German (are there others?) have decided to take literature in a new direction, I guess, by making it utterly devoid of all emotion, meaning, subtext, heart, soul, interest, and depth. Now, I am not stupid. I realize this is a tactic. I understand that there might be room here for serious analysis, for someone to come along and debate that it is precisely by removing emotional depth that each individual reader could perhaps get even deeper by imposing their own emotions onto the scrim of the story, or that this is the post-irony, post-hip, mind-numbing-pharmaceuticals age, and that Tao and Zach are only giving all of us desensitized, zombified, emotionless hipsters the only thing we are still capable of digesting.

But here’s the thing: THAT IS BULLSHIT.

There are lots of reasons we read. Maybe to escape our mundane lives and vicariously experience something more interesting. Maybe to gain new perspectives on the multi-dimensionality of the human psyche. Maybe to give ourselves an emotional boost. Maybe to be challenged, to confront something in ourselves, to learn something new. Maybe to search for beauty. Maybe to discover truth.

Tao and Zach deprive us of all of these things.

Tao and Zach write about life at its most mundane, most deadly boring, most dead. Whether the characters are smoking cigarettes, shopping at thrift stores, listening to music (exhaustively catalogued, btw, artists and albums and even lyrics, like a post-modern hipster checklist), masturbating, talking on Gchat (literally actually transposed chat conversations, which are even more vapid than the rest of the "story"), cooking, checking their email, smoking pot, or hanging out with friends, it is all described in the most insipid, most surface language, and no matter how hard you try, you cannot squeeze the tiniest smidge of interest out of any of it.

Who the fuck wants to read something like that??

mid-read: Oh god holy shit I hate this book. There will be a fucking screed when I am finished, hoo boy.

before reading: Ooh, just scored a proof of this for $1 at Housing Works!

while contemplating reading: I am nervous about wanting to read this book, mainly because it's too obviously what I should probably want to read next. I am always distrustful of things that seem to be aimed directly at me, you know? I mean, it's unapologetically hipster-y, which of course simultaneously intrigues me and gives me hives. Then there's the endorsement from Dennis Cooper ("Zachary German's nimble, catwalking, archeological, surface dwelling, emotionally unpaved prose is a thing of total wonder and my favorite drug, language-based or otherwise"), but on the other hand is the endorsement from Tao Lin, about whom I have only bad things to say and which I refuse to quote.
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message 1: by tee (new)

tee Mmmm hipster fuckery. I can't stand Tao Lin but have an unhealthy obsession with reading his stuff/ following his activities out of sheer curiosity as to his popularity. It's like roadkill, I just can't look away.

Oriana You say "curiosity", I say "bewildered horror / despair". (I can't really badmouth him the way I'd like to because his publisher hires me occasionally, and I don't want to be, um, unprofessional.)

message 3: by tee (new)

tee bahaha, i had to look up the word screed, but i am so pleased to see some hatred spew forth.

Oriana Ah ha ha, awesome. I hope you found the one at Merriam-Websters which defines it as "a ranting piece of writing," because that's exactly what the fuck it's going to be.

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I can't wait! I love screeds.

message 6: by Tuck (new)

Tuck ah damn, i just ordered this book for our collection. maybe it will piss of a baptist?

Oriana Tuck wrote: "ah damn, i just ordered this book for our collection. maybe it will piss of a baptist?"

Well sadly, I think this book is about to be a reasonably popular flash in the pan – which is what's making me so effing furious. I forget if you work at a bookstore or library? But if so, unfortunately, getting a copy of this was a smart decision.

message 8: by Tuck (new)

Tuck library, in rusty corner of bible belt buckle.

Oriana Haha nice. I'm unfortunately pretty ignorant about what people who aren't in Brooklyn or San Fran are into, but how does Tao Lin do out there? B/c this guy is like a horrible knock-off of his horrible trend.

message 10: by Nick (new)

Nick i tried my damndest to abstain from this conversation but my opinion is too strong to refrain from joining the chorus. As a librarian in Tulsa, OK (sure the crotch of the bible belt, but still has thriving arts' scenes) tao lin has yet to be added to our collection. i doubt it is a conscious decision, but his writing and internet antics just make me think that if he was had one less gimick we wouldnt even be talking about him. His promotional antics seem to garner more attention than his writing.

message 11: by Tuck (new)

Tuck yes, in stillwater too, he pretty much a non-starter

Oriana Nick, I am so, so, so with you. Which, I mean, though it galls me unceasingly to say, is to his credit, I fucking guess. As his writing is so spectacularly lacking in any literary merit, at least he realized he had to kill himself gimmick-ing if he ever wanted anyone to even know his name.

message 13: by tee (new)

tee Scrreeeeeeeeddd. I can't believe the excerpt you posted. Holy effing shit. I don't think I'd even enjoy hating on this one.

message 14: by Conrad (new)

Conrad Plenty of writers grapple with apathy and boredom and nothingness and death and absence with humor, wit, some kind of avid engagement... This sounds toxic. At least when Robbe-Grillet and pals used that kind of diction, they were always careful to write about humans with recognizable desires and motivations, however alienated.

message 15: by Tuck (new)

Tuck there ARE some aspects of this though that one could empathize with (as oriana said), the whole malaise of usa in 2 wars, but here in usa? you'd "never know", plus the meaning and collection (at least in your head) of music. its kind of sick, but similar to sports fans knowing all the stolen bases in the 1962 world series or something. completely useless info, but also some sort of comfort and metafiction for THAT INDIVIDUAL. but also completely useless and non-compelling for everyone else, especially when printed by melville house, and double especially when dennis cooper talks it up. thanks a lot dennis cooper and melville house.

message 16: by Nick (new)

Nick I dont think you should take it down. That passage you copied is terrible. I sometimes enjoy characters who are emotionally stymied, but i also enjoy writing that that can express that without resorting to mundanities in simple sentences. I understand what he is trying to get across, a postmodern ennui (at least that whats i think he is attempting) but the writing is fucking terrible and distant and a consumed turned regurgitated kmart realism. Maybe there is something to be said that this style/school has garnered such negative and strong opinions. But I'd rather waste my time on things that dont make me want to shoot the author in the face.

message 17: by Kimley (new)

Kimley Ah, this is what happens when you live in NYC or LA. Just the other day I trashed the film Crazy Heart on Facebook and then remembered that several of my friends there are good buds with T-Bone Burnett so then I felt kinda bad... But your review is honest and if Zachary comes across it, he should look on it as constructive criticism!

message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

No. Don't take it down.

message 19: by Brian (new)

Brian Okay, but... what do you actually feel about it, O?


Oriana Hey thanks for all the encouragement & support, guys! I think this is my most liked review ever, which makes me feel a smidge guilty, but fuck it. Like Matt said: LET LITERATURE HAVE SOME LIFE!!

message 21: by Monica (new)

Monica Right on, Oriana. Fuck 'em.

message 22: by Jason (new)

Jason Pettus "Needless to say that the traditional literary world is still in shock this week, when it was announced that this year's winner of the Pulitzer Prize for criticism is a woman whose most famous line is, 'I hated the shit out of this stupid fucking motherfucking book.'"

Oriana HA!! Jason that's my favorite comment I've ever gotten ever. I'd be motherfucking honored to be remembered for such eloquence!

message 24: by Keith (new)

Keith So every time you quote a book you really like, I'm like "FUCK, that sounds like the worst fucking thing on Earth, and I'm glad she quoted it so I could decide for myself but also confused because if that's good writing, then up is down and I will now kill myself."

Then you posted a paragraph from this one and I'm like, "Oh, I get it. As long as it's not a million pages, I would read that."

So yeah, I also read your reasons for why "we" read books and I was like, "yeah, no."

It's sort of impressive because I like you so much in real life but lord god, your taste is a bizarro universe to me.

message 25: by Chris (new)

Chris This is the best angry review I've read in quite some time. Well done, oriana.

message 26: by David (new)

David Katzman i'm raising a pipe to you on this one. cheerio, pip pip, and whatnot.

message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

i'm so grateful this review wasn't taken down! you are doing the world of goodreads a service with this one. i mean... not to throw kindling on a fire which has long since gone out but.. even with your one star review, this book has a 4.28 rating!!

message 28: by Manny (new)

Manny Tao Lin and now Zachary German (are there others?) have decided to take literature in a new direction, I guess, by making it utterly devoid of all emotion, meaning, subtext, heart, soul, interest, and depth.

Oriana, you almost certainly weren't planning to read Yellow Dog. You shouldn't, repeat, shouldn't do so. Just thought that I'd say your review reminded me of it. I felt just like that.

Oriana Gosh, I still feel pretty guilty that this, my most vitriolic review, remains by far my most liked. Especially since I usually love everything way too much!

Keith: Thank you as always for the backhanded compliment. Luckily I like you so much in real life too, so you can go ahead and keep insulting my literary tastes.
Chris & David: Thanks!!
Ariel: Thanks and sheesh, 4.28? Who the hell are these people who like this fucking garbage? I hope I never run into them at a Brooklyn hipster party because I will punch someone in the face.
Manny: Is that by Martin Amis? Luckily I have no intention of ever reading anything by Martin Amis. And I am mind-boggled to think that something could make you -- who seem to be one of the most patient, level-headed people I "know" -- get even close to as angry as this made me.

message 30: by Manny (new)

Manny Manny: Is that by Martin Amis? Luckily I have no intention of ever reading anything by Martin Amis. And I am mind-boggled to think that something could make you -- who seem to be one of the most patient, level-headed people I "know" -- get even close to as angry as this made me.

Thank you!

Well... maybe I was more disappointed than angry. But I was angry too. I usually like Martin Amis, and Yellow Dog was simply horrible.

Perhaps the critical difference is that you don't appear to be sure whether German can do any better, while I know perfectly well that Amis can! I still have no idea what he thought he was up to. His book is revolting in pretty much the way you describe.

Stephen Dierks i hear the sound of 1 hand clapping

message 32: by Matt (new) - added it

Matt Walker better than sam lipsyte at least

message 33: by Susana (new)

Susana Mai You know, I like Tao Lin (though I've always referred his poetry to his more recent prose) but that paragraph you cited of german's was dreadful.

I don't know though, sometimes Tao Lin is what I want to read RIGHT NOW. and sometimes, i couldn't defend why the hell i like him if my life depended on it. Your review was pretty hilarious though.

message 34: by Jesus (new)

Jesus Garcia I haven't read this book, so I won't comment on it. But I LOVE Oriana's reaction. Love it.

Colin Herd I actually loved this book. I don't think it is anywhere near to being true that Zachary German's style (nor Tao Lin's for that matter) is 'utterly devoid of all emotion'. I think removing description of emotion doesn't mean emotion itself is removed at all.

I love the passage you quote precisely because it seems to be almost unbearably emotional, the watching/looking/walking, and then that handily placed 'touching' of the shirt which aches under a whole load of emotional content. I often touch my shirt when I feel awkward. Those short sentences are emotional if you ask me, it's an emotional form, the kind of form you turn to when you're about as wound up with emotion you can't put your finger on as you can get. so you touch your shirt because you can't touch something else.

message 36: by Matt (new) - added it

Matt Walker i like what colin said

message 37: by Tuck (new)

Tuck tool

Oriana Wow. I really still have trouble with the fact that this is my most voted for & most commented on review. Usually I am not such a bitch! Mostly I love things! But this nonsense? It doesn't matter how many people plead its case; I will never ever ever like Eat When You Feel Sad, not even a smidge.

Not that I am unhappy that other people like it! Shit, do your thing, it takes all kinds, etc etc. I by no means think that what I say goes, or even matters, except to me.

So: cool, whatever. I can exist in a world that includes Zachary German and people who think he doesn't horribly horribly suck. I mean, I live in a world where Sarah Palin defends the BP oil spill by saying we need more Drill Baby Drill, and that makes me a fucking lot more upset than some shitty writing passing for a novel.

And also thanks christopher; I've never been quoted, much less belittled, in a blog post before. (I mean that thanks earnestly, I promise; I think it's pretty cool to be derided by people whom you disagree strongly with.) I'm not sure why my admitting/not admitting to being a hipster is relevant here, but whatever man. You're eloquent, which I respect, even though I think you're probably full of shit (as, obviously and reasonably, you think I am). I, for one, will never ever get beyond "deifying 'good' prose," because that's why the fuck I read. But that's just me.

message 41: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 09, 2010 04:29PM) (new)

I, for one, will never ever get beyond "deifying 'good' prose," because that's why the fuck I read. But that's just me.
good for you, oriana. and congratulations on your starring role in christopher's blog--and on FIFTY-FIVE votes. wow.

message 42: by christopher (new)

christopher i think you're the only person who read that post, oriana. so thanks to you, as well. melville house linked to your review on its facebook feed, so i think that might account for the surge in counter-opinions.

and you're right, i shouldn't have let the quotation marks around "good" make my entire explanation for me in that second to last paragraph (eschewing "penultimate" there to maybe deflate myself a bit and score some points...or maybe to make a different one). i am admittedly full of shit, by the way. widely construed. ha.

as for the hispter thing, i meant only that i can see the reluctance to label oneself that's always been associated with that moniker to be cause enough for some people to dislike how this book might seem to narrate them.

my roommate couldn't even finish it for what it's worth.

message 43: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy Disclaimer: I have not read either Tao Lin or Zachary German.

The problem with this kind of fiction is that it mistakes boring writing with writing that expresses boredom. Those are two entirely different things. It is a fallacy that to write boring-ly is to somehow deliver a scathing critique of modern life (and how fucking stupid are "scathing critiques of modern life"s anyway, what are you, a fucking Artiste with a capital A?). Your review is brilliant, especially "But here’s the thing: THAT IS BULLSHIT." I feel bad for anyone who writes truly innovative fiction, people like Cortazar, Cesar Aira, Calvino, Borges, to be grouped in with this new breed of talentless hacks. (I can say that because I don't have a boyfriend who walks dogs with Zachary German ;) ).

I also liked christopher's blog post... yes isn't it time we stop deifying good prose? What's the corollary to that? Start worshipping bad writing? Umm.. no thanks.

This whole attitude really strikes a nerve with me because I think what people are saying is: in 2010, isn't it time to get past emotion? And I think: precisely BECAUSE we're living in 2010 that we should write, read, and create things that reflect how human we still are! The postmodern condition isn't that we aren't able to feel, because we ARE! The postmodern condition is that we live in an age where it is increasingly HARD to feel (and express) emotion (in a genuine way), and yet against all odds, we DO! We always do! So I'm not saying "let's write like it's the 50's", I'm saying "let's write like it's 2010, acknowledge all this new stuff, but also acknowledge that there is also all this humanity as well that transcends".

I'm also full of shit, and this screed is now over. Thx.

Patryk OTM and great review!

No offense to anyone, but to me reading Zachary German and Tao Lin is a bit like listening to the incredibly bland, vapid "nu-indie" music of the late zeros (fortunately that trends seems to be going away these days); stuff that tries really hard to be cool and reflective of its generation and time but ultimately lacks character and real substance.

message 45: by Simeon (new)

Simeon Omg best review I've read in my life. LOL. Screed.

message 46: by Jonny (last edited Dec 17, 2010 11:16PM) (new)

Jonny Ross Jesus.

I want to read this book now just to spite this disgusting, small-minded and mean-spirited rant of a review.

Kind regards.

Oriana Jonny wrote: "Jesus.
I want to read this book now just to spite this disgusting, small-minded and mean-spirited rant of a review.
Kind regards."

Haha, gosh, well, please do. It's never my intention to stop people from reading a book just because I hate it. Sorry you think I'm such a bitch.

Kinder regards.

message 48: by Esteban (new)

Esteban del Mal I dunno. I kinda liked the sentence about the children's book about time.

message 49: by Taylor (new)

Taylor Even though you don't like that this is one of your most liked and commented on reviews, just wanted to say that you have my full agree (unsurprisingly).

Oriana Thanks as always TKL. : )

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