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"Threshold, or, how I learned to stop worrying (about what sort of novel this is) and love the narrator, whose brilliance and humor on drugs and literature, sex and boredom and death, leave me in awe." --Rachel Kushner
"Fearless and challenging, inventive and compulsive, unique and utterly heartfelt." --John Boyne
"Daring and deranged, endlessly entertaining, furiously funny." --Geoff Dyer
"Playful, potent, lurid, moving, and fearless." --Lisa McInerney
"[A] modern day odyssey." --Teddy Wayne
"A Pilgrim's Progress for our time." --Mike McCormack
"A thrilling mutation...[Doyle's] is a journey you don't want to miss." --Chris Power
An uninhibited portrait of the artist as a perpetual drifter and truth-seeker - a funny, profound, compulsive listen that's like traveling with your wildest and most philosophical friend.
The narrator of Rob Doyle's Threshold has spent the last two decades traveling, writing, and imbibing drugs and literature in equal measure, funded by brief periods of employment or "on the dole" in Dublin. Now, stranded between reckless youth and middle age, his travels to far-flung places have acquired a de facto purpose: to aid the contemporary artist's search for universal truth.
Following Doyle from Buddhism to the brink of madness, Threshold immerses us in the club-drug communalism of the Berlin underworld, the graves of myth-chasing artists in Paris, and the shattering and world-rebuilding revelations brought on by the psychedelic DMT, the so-called "spirit molecule."
Exulting in the rootlessness of the wanderer, Doyle exists in a lineage of writer-characters - W. G. Sebald, Ben Lerner, Maggie Nelson, and Rachel Cusk - deftly and subversively exploring forms between theory and autobiography. Insightful and provocative, Threshold is a darkly funny, genuinely optimistic, compulsively listenable celebration of perception and desire, of what is here and what is beyond our comprehension.
The full copyright information includes: Extracts from the following used with kind permission: True Hallucinations by Terence McKenna. © 1993 by Terence McKenna. Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers. The Archaic Revival by Terence McKenna. © 1991 by Terence McKenna. Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers. Visions of Excess: Selected Writings 1927–1939 by Georges Bataille. English translation © 1985 by the University of Minnesota. Originally published in George Bataille’s Oevres complets; © 1970 by Editions Gallimard. DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman, M.D. published by Inner Traditions International and Bear & Company, © 2000. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission of publisher. Nadja by André Breton, translated by Richard Howard. English translation © 1960 by Grove Press. Original publication © 1928 by Librarie Gallimard. Used by permission of Grove Atlantic. I Love Dick by Chris Kraus. © 1997, 2006 by Chris Kraus. Used by permission of Serpent’s Tail (UK) and Semiotext(e) (US and Canada). ‘Mirror in February’ by Thomas Kinsella. Originally published by Dolmen Press in Downstream; © 1962 by Thomas Kinsella. Used by permission of the author. George Bataille: Essential Writings by Michael Richardson. © 1998 by Michael Richardson. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Sage Publishing and Grasset. Robert Bolaño: The Last Interview and Other Conversations compiled and translated by Melville House Publishing. ‘The Last Interview’ originally published by Playboy Mexico; © 2003 by Monica Maristain. Used by permission of Melville House Publishing. The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. © 1965, 1966 by Thomas Pynchon. Used by permission of Melanie Jackson Agency. Tres by Roberto Bolaño, translated by Laura Healy, © 2000 by the Heirs of Roberto Bolaño, translation © 2011 by Laura Healy. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. Tres by Roberto Bolaño. © The Estate of Roberto Bolaño, 2000, used by permission of The Wylie Agency (UK) Limited. ‘The Sea Close By’ in ‘Summer’, 1954 by Albert Camus, translated by Ellen Conroy Kennedy © 1970, used by permission of Penguin Random House LLC (US) and the Wylie Agency (UK) Limited on behalf of the Camus estate. Lyrical and Critical Essays © 1950, 1951, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1963 by Editions Gallimard.
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A trippy escapade
Part documentary, part travelogue delivered with wit, style and humour. I thoroughly enjoyed this “trip” set in various places around the world during the author’s travels. Like many of the drugs described, it leaves you wanting more. Looking forward to a Threshold 2, of ever something like that is likely to exist or become reincarnated ...
Irish author Rob Doyle wanders the world and consumes a variety of different drugs (ketamine, psilocybin, ayahuasca/DMT, etc.) in search of mystical experiences to write about. An artist friend of his once told him that he painted "not so much to solve the mystery, but to deepen it" and I believe the same is true of Doyle's writing. His autobiographical novel walks a fine line between the comical and the solemn, the absurd and the profound, as he follows hedonistic impulses and is sometimes brought to terrified reverence by his journeys into the unknown. At some point, Doyle quotes the words of Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño from an interview in Playboy magazine:
What are the kinds of things that make you laugh?
My own and other people’s misfortunes.
What sort of things make you weep?
The same: my own and other people’s misfortunes.
While visiting the town near Barcelona where Bolaño spent his last years, Doyle imagines himself as a character dreamed up by the Chilean: "It might have been a Bolaño story, one of those faintly hallucinatory narratives about a drifter who turns up in some town, has an inconclusive encounter or two and moves on, having learned nothing and finished up more lost than when he started out." I guess you could sum up Threshold like that. I enjoyed Doyle's poetic observations about life, about the characters that he encounters along the way and the surrealist writers in whose works he finds inspiration.
About Alan Smyth's narration, I'll say that I found most of it brilliant and I wish I could give him five stars. However, his pronunciation of all things foreign is ghastly. I can't believe that Doyle wouldn't be able to pronounce correctly the names of the writers that he's so fascinated with. It's just painful to hear. Otherwise, Smyth's performance is great.
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