From the author of Taipei, Tao Lin's first work of non-fiction offers a blend of memoir into his experiments with psychedelic drugs and biographical exploration of the life and teachings of Terence McKenna, an advocate of psychotropic drug use who died in 2000.
Tao Lin's eighth book, Trip, is his best yet, and it’s all thanks to drugs ... Lin...has never been more creative, precise, or inspired than when he details psychedelics-begotten behavior and theories. The behavior is mostly his own, while the theories are often borrowed from Terence McKenna, the late psilocybin advocate whose YouTube videos started Lin down the path to revitalization ... When Trip sloughs off the weight of McKenna’s influence, it becomes a joy to read. Lin is a meticulous cataloguer ... By recounting his drug experimentation, he’s found the perfect outlet for his obsessive MO. His hypersensitivity to the granularity of lived experience becomes a boon ... His rendering of tripping is perfect—better even, for me, than Aldous Huxley’s elegant and evocative passages in The Doors of Perception, because Lin’s account conveys reverence and immersion without grandiosity. And that allows humor to leak through ... It was not out of callousness that I wrote 'lol, yes' in the margins. It was out of recognition.
Trip, Lin’s first properly nonfiction book, probably isn’t going to convert any haters—it’s still full of angular idiomatic ticks (his trademark stiff tone and mania for quantifying things in numbers, to name a few). And there’s that awkward self-consciousness that sometimes makes you feel a little embarrassed, like you’re reading an undergraduate term paper. But for those predisposed to Lin’s peculiar voice, it’s also probably the most personal, engaging, and sophisticated thing he’s written so far. To be clear, I’m squarely in the latter camp ... a key to what the book is about, beyond the quiet despair of ordinary life and drugs’ power to cure it: it’s about a young writer on a quest to understand his obsession with translating experience into language, and trying to find the best way to do so ... In his efforts to record those experiences, Lin eschews the rigorous refusal of adjectives and figurative language that defined his earlier novels, trying here to create a much richer textual world ... Trip is thus a document of an evolving process ... It is also calmly beautiful—fracturing loneliness and humming with hope.
Lin avoids writing in figurative language, and there is little hyperbole in these reports, nor references to nineteen-sixties-era acid metaphysics. Trip is, if not a guide to self-help, a book about a person trying to be happier, in part by changing the kinds of drugs he uses ... another theory of psychedelics emerges, which suggests that the most mystical revelations concern earthly themes: birth, death, and the body; family, friends, and love.