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Jul 19, 2015

Tao Lin and Mira Gonzalez are the guests. Their new book, Selected Tweets, is available now from Short Flight / Long Drive. (Please note that Tao has written an addendum/clarification to the content of this episode; it is posted below.1 Also: listeners who would like to weigh in on this or any episode can email me here. I may feature your responses in a future episode.)

Selected Tweets, as its title suggests, is a collection of Tao and Mira's tweets. It's not all of their tweets; it's an edited selection, published in a little black bible-like volume. For those of you who might be doubting the literary value of the book, I would suggest considering it as a work of poetry, though it feels like more than a work of poetry. In the aggregate, I suppose it reads like a kind of memoir-poetry hybrid or something. Maybe it's its own thing. It's kind of a jokebook, too. Both Mira and Tao are funny writers.

In the monologue, I talk about Tao and Mira's arrival at my house and the shopping bag that Tao brought, and a conversation that he and I had about a tree in my backyard. I also talk about Twitter.

1 Statement from Tao Lin: During the interview, I think Brad Listi might have asked me if Ellen and I used to talk about rape in a joking kind of way, and I think I may have said "yes". I remember feeling myself cringe when I said that, knowing it wasn’t what I meant. What I wish I had said, and what is true, is: "No, we did not ever joke about rape. What we joked about had to do solely with the somewhat absurd and, in a black humor sort of way, comical fact that the meanings for 'statutory rape' and 'rape' which both abbreviate to 'rape' are extremely different—one is based on age and state/area and is always consensual, the other is based on violence and is internationally defined and is never consensual. Our jokes had something to do about this fact, which I think on some level we felt could/should be pointed out so that we and other people can be more aware of it and therefore reduce the amount of possible distortion it (and other random unideal usages of language in society today) can have on their realities. We didn’t joke about rape itself which we both, I think, did not view as something at all funny, but we did joke about the term/words 'statutory rape' and the word 'rape' and how it’s kind of unfortunate and misleading that these two similar terms reference two very different crimes. For an idea of how Ellen (now E.R.) and I used to communicate, the language and tone we used, I recommend reading hikikomori, a book of letters we wrote together and and to each other in 2007." I would also like to point out that the only kind of rape that could possibly not be "horrific rape", as Jezebel misreported in their headline before correcting it to "statutory rape", is statutory rape between two people in a long-term romantic relationship, which is the accusation they were writing about. Finally, here is a link to some of E.R. Kennedy’s tweets that were mentioned in the interview.

And, one other thing I would like to mention—as an example of how articles, written solely for hits and rushed to publication, can be misleading and, it seems to me, harmful and counterproductive for everyone involved—is New York Magazine's online article about this, which was probably, in my view, the most considered and earnest article about this from mainstream media, published just four days after Jezebel's article. In it, the writer misreported (by accepting what Jezebel had posted as fact) that I "threatened legal action" against E.R. Kennedy. I emailed the writer (we were acquaintances—she had talked to me before when reporting on this, for example) saying so and to thank her for her calm, (relatively) careful reporting, and she responded that she would see if she could add a clarification or soften the language of "threatened legal action". (It was changed to "considered legal action" which still isn't true—the idea of me suing E.R. seems ridiculous and completely undesirable to me, though suing Jezebel was something I considered.) She also responded that there was a version of her article that mentioned my support for consequential personal writing from women, including my own subjects and exes, and that it was "a shame" that that information didn’t make it to the final draft. She said the conversation had been "flattened and warped" and hoped it wouldn't discourage me in my future support of women. I think it could be useful to everyone involved, and anyone who cares about reducing prejudice and increasing equality, especially between women and men, in the world, to know that this is what happens with articles that you read online that have been rushed to publication and serve purposes other than truth. Editors and writers, even at New York Magazine and even when space is not an issue (the article was posted online), flatten and distort reality, thereby manipulating and deceiving their readers. Why do they do this? I think this is an interesting, crucial, and serious question to consider, and one whose answers could be helpful for everyone to keep in mind when reading articles. Flattening and distorting is less of an issue, I think, in books, which often incorporate years of calm consideration and research—something to keep in mind.