A drug-soaked excursion through addiction, psychedelics, and fascination with a visionary psychonaut.
In his first full-length nonfiction book, Taiwanese novelist and poet Lin (Taipei, 2013, etc.) probes deep to expose his struggles with drug addiction and isolating depression, two suffocating encumbrances that threatened to extinguish his artistic creativity and even his life. In this peculiar yet addictive patchwork of memoir, biography, and meditative self-analysis, the author explores how studying pro-psychedelic mystic Terence McKenna (1946-2000) liberated him from an amphetamine, psilocybin mushroom, and opiate-fueled “zombielike” state while finishing the final draft of his previous novel. Lin’s fixation with McKenna forms the core of the narrative and the center around which a lot of his life-altering revelations are based. The author briskly escorts readers through McKenna’s nomadic life as a self-proclaimed “hardheaded rationalist,” and he explores his visions, public talks, and imaginative interpretations with encyclopedic thoroughness. Both Lin and McKenna shared a preoccupation with psychedelics, but the author’s own drug history also encompassed Adderall, methadone, MDMA, and opiates. Lin’s depiction of his magic mushroom and DMT trips are strikingly vivid. Over time and with varied use, those two psychoactive indulgences proved the most intensely transformative for both Lin and McKenna. Lin coherently challenges the sense behind labeling psychedelics as controlled substances, agreeing with McKenna’s declaration that the government made them illegal because they dissolve “opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behavior and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.” Lin also writes thoughtfully about cannabis, “the plant I’ve had the closest relationship with so far in my life.” A decade after McKenna succumbed to cancer, Lin visited his guru’s former wife, which he recounts in a bizarre epilogue that is as buzzed, foggy, meandering, and eccentric as the rest of this unconventional memoir.
A kaleidoscopic fever dream of ideas, idolatry, and lots of drugs: uniquely produced and curiously intoxicating.