Tao Lin Has an Ally: Seattle Columnist Confronts Tyrannical Indie Publishing House

Christopher Frizzelle, the books columnist for the Seattle Stranger (which famously mocked Jonathan Franzen’s appearance on the cover of Time with a profile of Tao Lin, written by Tao Lin) has now come to Mr. Lin’s defense in an alleged dispute between the writer and Dennis Johnson, his publisher at small indie shop Melville House. At issue, supposedly, is that Mr. Johnson objected to the relationship between a 16-year-old and a 22-year-old in Mr. Lin’s book Richard Yates. So Mr. Frizzelle confronts him, in a column entitled “Confronting Tao Lin’s Publisher, Part One”:

“We had our issues, but they’re between me and Tao,” [Dennis Johnson] said coldly when I brought it up. I mentioned that he chose to publish the book, and he said, strangely, “I published the writer, not the book.” I said, “You published the book!” He said, “I published the writer.” And so it went until an exasperated Johnson said he just didn’t want to talk about it, which I said was an unimpressive answer coming from someone who publishes ideas for a living, and he replied, “I’m not an impressive person.”

We don’t really know what to make of this. Being a small, poor publishing house certainly does not mean one is beyond reproach, but of all the people to get really riled up and yell about in publishing… We’ll see how this plays out in the hotly anticipated Part 2. Meanwhile, read Tao Lin’s definitive Observer essay on the future of the novel.