Tao Lin's Nonfiction Debut: Trip
Tao Lin is taking readers on a Trip with his nonfiction debut.
His upcoming book, which combines memoir, history, and exposé in its exploration of psychedelic drugs, marks an exciting, personal new chapter in the acclaimed novelist and poet’s career. Lin, who previously penned the semi-autobiographical novels Richard Yates and Taipei, returns to the subject of his own life even more explicitly here, beginning Trip by recounting his harrowing battle with pharmaceutical drugs. From there, he tells the story of Terence McKenna, an advocate of experimental drugs with whom Lin worked and found artistic inspiration. The innovative and affecting book probes questions about art, death, and language, all with Lin’s typical profundity.
Lin has exclusively shared with EW an excerpt from the book, as well as its official cover. The jacket features Lin’s own illustration, one that reflects the themes of chaos and art so intrinsic to the book. The excerpt, called “Psilocybin,” finds Lin communicating with his reader frankly, and in great detail, about his “mushroom experiences.” Check out the cover and excerpt below.
Excerpt from Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change, by Tao Lin
On August 5, 2013, at around 12:50 a.m., in my fourth-floor apartment on 29th Street in Manhattan, I ate 2.5 grams of an unknown species of dried, psilocybin-containing mushroom. I ate over forty to fifty minutes, motivated partially out of boredom, nibbling absentmindedly while feeling, as I did those days, in 2013, less doomed than one or two years earlier, but only a little and not consistently. Sometimes I still felt “non-humorously fucked,” as I thought with varying amounts of humor; this was my eighth and final month both “recovering” and recovering. I had no plans that night, except to eventually sleep.
Seated at my desk, part of me felt like the mushrooms wouldn’t do anything. I hadn’t had psilocybin in around two months, so had forgotten the strangeness and potency of its effects and reverted somewhat to my view of psychedelics prior to eating mushrooms three years earlier—that they probably weren’t as intense as people claimed. People seemed to use the same words to describe food and naps and images and normal reality—amazing, profound, mind-blowing, unbelievable—as psychedelic experiences not, I’d realized over time, because they were lying, and not necessarily because they were being characteristically hyperbolic, but because the phenomenology of psychedelics was difficult “to English,” as McKenna said in “In the Valley of Novelty” (1998), observing that psilocybin and DMT seemed to particularly affect “the language-forming portions of the brain,” which resulted in “bizarre states of mind” because it was these portions that explained what was happening.
Psilocybin’s initial, rumblingly stimulating effects prodded me from my near-catatonic state, gazing at things with slow eye movements and no distinct thoughts, a common status for me in 2013, into a healthier mode of detail-oriented, collegial behavior: I began packing my other 2.5 grams of mushrooms to mail a friend, who was at Yaddo, to nurture her interest in psychedelics. My calm productivity continued as I emailed her a photo of the package and a block of phone-typed text, recommending she eat the mushrooms alone at night with no obligations the next day (which was my situation) and sharing a little about my mushroom experiences:
- I’d eaten mushrooms ten to fifteen times in the past three years.
- I’d rarely eaten them alone. I’d eaten them before a reading, before going to the American Museum of Natural History, before seeing movies in theaters, at social gatherings, and with friends in the city and elsewhere.
- Around five times I’d concluded, for minutes, that I’d died.
- The most I’d eaten at once was probably 3 or 4 grams. That night was the first time I’d weighed a dose.
- Whenever I ate more than maybe around 1.5 grams, the intensity and alienness of the effects re-amazed me, causing me to think, “How could I have forgotten this?”
After sending my email at 1:44 a.m., my room began to feel spaceship-like. In my liver, 36-atom molecules of psilocybin were breaking down into 31-atom molecules of psilocin, which were entering my brain, where they were interacting with serotonin and other receptors. I felt myself leaving Earth in an intimidatingly disquieting manner, like I was on a vessel I hadn’t suspected to exist, departing a place I’d assumed was the only place.
Copyright © 2018 by Tao Lin, excerpted with permission from The Clegg Agency from Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change.