News & Politics

Urban Outfitters Is Actually Selling Tao Lin’s Novella Shoplifting at American Apparel


So this is meta. Any day now, Shoplifting at American Apparel, the self-proclaimed “controversial” novella by much-hyped young Brooklyn writer Tao Lin, will go on sale. . . at Urban Outfitters. While not entirely about thievery, the slim volume published by Melville House as part of their “Contemporary Art of the Novella” series features a protagonist whose main source of income is a financial sideline Lin himself claims to have experience with: stealing clothes from American Apparel and reselling them on eBay.

Urban Outfitters approached the publisher, according to a Melville House publicist, about carrying Lin’s book, which stands apart from the store’s general selection of coffee-table joke books, mostly in that it’s representative of how kids raised on the internet actually communicate–the book opens with a Gchat conversation. Urban Outfitters and American Apparel have long competed for the attention of young, city-dwelling shoppers seeking deep-V tee shirts and feather-embellished headbands. And while one could read stocking Lin’s book as a passive-aggressive shot from one side to another, it’s likely more of a genius coincidence that allows Urban Outfitters to sell a book about stealing from one of their closest rivals, written almost expressly for their target demographic.

Lin, while undoubtedly pleased with the prospect of increased sales, takes a jab at the retailer on his blog, proposing a sequel to his current book, which would be titled Shoplifting Shoplifting at American Apparel at Urban Outfitters. We contacted an Urban Outfitters representative to see if the chain would carry it, but our calls have not been returned.

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