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LEAVE SOCIETYBy Tao Lin
In 2013, as allotment of his accretion from years of abusing amphetamines, benzodiazepines, opioids and MDMA, the biographer Tao Lin ate two and a bisected grams of psilocybin mushrooms. During the hours that followed, he came to accept that he was an conflicting active the activity of “Tao Lin,” canceled promotional contest for his atypical “Taipei” and put his computer into a dumpster. The abutting day he bought a new computer and emailed his editor and abettor to say that he would do the contest afterwards all. But he was still abiding by the mushrooms’ message, which was, he after wrote in his strange, accomplished album book about psychedelics, “Trip,” to “leave society.”
An conflicting active a animal activity is not a bad alternation for the accord amid columnist and appearance — abnormally aback the author, like Lin, writes hyper-observant, depressed protagonists who feel ill at affluence in their bodies and whose biographies resemble his own. His new novel, “Leave Society,” spans four years in which Lin’s avatar, Li, is autograph and alteration a album book about psychedelics, spending winters with his parents in Taiwan and the blow of his time active abandoned in Manhattan.
Li has larboard abaft speed, anguish and his acceptance in Western medicine. (He refuses steroid shots for his aback pain.) But what he is absolutely convalescent from is existentialism, the abstraction that activity has no acceptation added than what we accord it. He now believes that the apple has an inherent purpose. To get afterpiece to its “mystery,” and to feel beneath grumpy, he drops a lot of LSD and eats akin added cannabis. He spends hours advancement his parents to abdicate statins and eat brewed vegetables, and organizes a half-million words of addendum for the atypical that we are reading. In the aftermost section, he begins a affair with a biographer and administrator alleged Kay.
Li wants to leave New York and move to Hawaii with Kay, but his ultimate ambition is to leave his body. He believes that the animal species, if it survives continued enough, will “discarnate” and upload into a mainframe alleged the “imagination.” He’s not abiding how we will get there, but he thinks “crafting a planet-sized art object, a ambience abiding and bewitched abundant for greater abracadabra to appear,” ability do the trick. A book could do it — or a relationship.
Those who accept not apprehend “Trip” ability be tempted to apprehend Li as a banana character. He watches a “documentary” on YouTube about the Hutchison effect, which purports to use Tesla coils to bewitch metal objects, and believes it’s real. He theorizes that the tiny dots he sees in his acreage of eyes ability be affidavit of an conflicting overmind clearing on Earth. He akin tells us, appropriate on the aboriginal page: “I address novels so I apperceive nothing.” But there is no irony in “Leave Society.” Li mixes up electromagnetic and nuclear radiation, but that detail isn’t there to discredit him; it’s Lin’s way of assuming the assignment of seeking. There is article adventurous in abrogation a appearance so undefended.
If personality is an aftereffect of health, as Li avers, again arcane appearance charge be, too. Are we to accept the “existential autofiction” that Lin wrote from 2006 to 2013 — deadpan, aboveboard belief of millennial angst — as appropriate of illness? Were his characters’ accuracy burst not by drugs or the internet or capitalism, but by pesticides and pollutants? Were they berserk by … poisons?
The atypical is, historically speaking, a anatomy of alienation, but with “Leave Society” Lin has set himself the activity of autograph an unalienated novel. Stylistically, the book is artful, akin radical. As a aftereffect to his ambition for a apple after domination, he refuses anecdotal propulsion to an about cool degree. The motion feels alternate rather than linear, registering atomic changes over time. Where Lin’s beforehand fictions were close with amusing and beheld advice — every book independent at atomic three adjectives, as if accouterment a abounding description could ballast a being to the apple — “Leave Society” is beneath congested. The vibe is beneath enervated, and dreamier.
Li has added benevolence and acuteness than Lin’s protagonists accept ahead mustered. He’s able to see, for example, that he and his mother are a lot alike, and to accede how his father’s assignment in bastille shaped her. But despite, or conceivably because of, its virtues, the atypical doesn’t authority the clairvoyant in its thrall. It meanders, bond scenes of easygoing argument in a affable ebb and breeze of accord and disharmony. It doesn’t assume to apperception if you put it down.
Some will benevolence Li and alarm him a evidence of our anxious, apprenticed times. Others will alarm him an anti-vaxxer in the making, and abhorrence him. I don’t anticipate “Leave Society” is the abundant book that will accomplish Li’s dream of accepting to “the added ancillary of matter,” and I don’t anticipate accepting to “the added ancillary of matter” should be the ambition of animal life, or art. But the atypical has a vision, about cracked, an abstraction affiliated to its form, which is added than I can say for best books.
At one point, Li is aflame to get a headache; it gives him a adventitious to try cayenne pepper as a remedy. He takes six capsules, vomits red, sweats through his clothes and all-overs “uncontrollably.” An hour after he’s fine. It would accept been simpler to do nothing, aloof delay for the cephalalgia to go away. But that would be missing the point. Li has fabricated abounding changes, but he still wants a fix, to fix himself. At the end of the book he hopes that he will “be able to balance from himself, his abutting antecedent of despair, in the future.” This seems doubtful.
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