Cover image for Threshold
Title:
Threshold
ISBN:
9781635574142
Physical Description:
316 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
"Game and gleefully provocative . . . My treasured companion of late." -New York Times "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 read 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 readable celebration of perception and desire, of what is here and what is beyond our comprehension.
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Summary

Summary

" Game and gleefully provocative . . . My treasured companion of late." --New York Times

" 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 read 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 readable celebration of perception and desire, of what is here and what is beyond our comprehension.


Author Notes

Rob Doyle was born in Dublin. He is the author of the story collection This Is the Ritual and the novel Here Are the Young Men. The latter was chosen as one of Hot Press magazine's "20 Greatest Irish Novels 1916 - 2016" and has been adapted as a forthcoming film. Doyle is the editor of the anthologies The Other Irish Tradition (Dalkey Archive Press), and In This Skull Hotel Where I Never Sleep (Broken Dimanche Press). He has written for the Guardian , Vice, The Dublin Review , and many other publications, and he writes a weekly books column for The Irish Times . He lives in Berlin.


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Doyle (This Is the Ritual) follows in this poignant tale an itinerant narrator as he searches for personal enlightenment. The narrator, 30-something Rob, recounts his adventures through a series of letters to an unknown recipient, composed mainly of ruminations on spirituality and the nature of truth alongside reminiscences of stories about his adventures across the globe. Among these are his expedition foraging for psychedelic mushrooms in Ireland, his visit to the graves of famous writers in Paris, his time at Buddhist meditation retreats in Southeast Asia, and his druggy clubbing lifestyle while living in Berlin. Throughout, he carries on lively, often humorous discussions with himself about identity that hover on the edge of chaotic existential crisis: "I swam in the sea and had the ecstatic drunken insight that everything is transient, everything is eternal, both statements are true." Doyle's musings are always intriguing and often enlightening, offering a glimpse of the anxious yet pleasing rationale of a mind struggling to live in a rational world. Fans of Will Self will enjoy this. (Mar.)


Guardian Review

Long before the English-language rise of autofiction, Geoff Dyer figured out the benefit of keeping shtum about what you're up to, genre-wise. Novel, memoir, essay? Let readers decide; he's just writing. Works such as 1997's Out of Sheer Rage, about not writing a biography of DH Lawrence, or 2003's druggy travelogue Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It, owe their charm in large part to this candid lack of artifice, which was, of course, anything but. Rob Doyle would have been in his early 20s when Yoga... came out, and it clearly left a mark. His new book, Threshold, likewise takes the form of 11 freewheeling, pharmaceutically messy vignettes in which a not-so-young literary man roams far-flung locales; Dyer, whose praise for Doyle appears on the jacket, even has a walk-on part. Narrated with an appealing blend of wide-eyed curiosity and no-bullshit scepticism, the episodic tale charts the 20s and 30s of a Dublin philosophy graduate, Rob (naturally), whose wanderlust stems partly from his fear that he won't be able to pen a magnum opus in his childhood bedroom, although Ireland's 2006 ban on the sale and possession of magic mushrooms has something to do with it too. While it's no straight Bildungsroman, the book's span charts Rob's shift from a sexually frustrated language teacher in Sicily, to an apparently in-demand author meeting his publisher in Zagreb and casually seducing an Algerian divorcee while on the train home from reporting on the Roberto Bolaño tourist trail in the Costa Brava. Along the way mind-bending quantities of drugs are ingested. There's a cocaine binge with Parisian theatre luvvies speculating about when Michel Houellebecq will end up beheaded. Ayahuasca sessions in Bogotá fuel notions of a PhD on Nietzsche "and Amazonian shamanism" - a project Dyerishly abandoned, same as a book narrated by Arthur Schopenhauer's poodles. "I had made it a point of pride to write only when I felt like it," he says. "The problem was, I almost never felt like it." On a visit to Georges Bataille's grave, he suddenly loses interest, boozily lunching alone instead, before realising he can't find it anyway ("I returned to my hotel and did a Google image search on my phone"). The itinerant structure keeps things fresh, serving up increasingly wild scenarios, including a game of psychological cat-and-mouse with a Kurdish artist who claims to have slept with two of the 9/11 hijackers in her teens. Added intrigue about Doyle's purpose comes from interludes giving us the narrator's half of a correspondence with an ex-lover, recalling his wish "to write a book whose binding tissue is not overt narrative but obsessions, fascinations¿ visions of my life as it is or might have been". There's enough wriggle room to ensure we don't get hung up on, say, whether Doyle really has pissed in a stranger's mouth at a Berlin nightclub. But troubling our pieties is part of the point, in any case, with one especially splenetic passage giving both barrels to the confusion of artistic merit with "a humanitarian worldview". Rob's own sex-and-death existentialist chic isn't exempt; using ketamine in Kashmir was, he thought, "important research at the limits of consciousness, but I see now I was just getting fucked up on a boat". As in Dyer, that fronting masks a sincere, even earnest interest in the nigh-on impossibility of communicating a mind-altering experience, whether it's Rob's paralysis when setting about an essay on his favourite author, the Romanian EM Cioran, or the "deeply alien, sometimes shocking vistas" he glimpses under the influence of DMT. Chasing intangible chemical highs ultimately ends up a proxy for the strange business of writing itself, as a quest not merely for experience, but its re-creation. As Rob says, almost poignantly: "It wasn't enough, somehow, just to be."


Kirkus Review

Drug binges, orgies, and technooh my!"For my purposes, a novel is simply a long chunk of prose in which whatever is said to have happened may or may not have actually happened, even if the author doesn't bother to change his own name." So, now that we've got that straight, we can plunge into the experiences of "Rob Doyle" during a 20-year-long Wanderjahr. Irish autofictionist Doyle's (This Is the Ritual, 2017, etc.) third book is a series of vignettes set in Sicily, Paris, Berlin, and beyond, framed by a series of letters to a friend, a woman also writing a book. His Geoff Dyer-esque lack of delusion about himself and his quest makes his report reliably refreshing. In Sicily, surrounded by beautiful women, he is so undone by sexual frustration that he finds relief at the farmers market. "I had the sense, eating those olives that were so plump and juicy that the eating of them was a rapturous, almost a sexual, experience, that I had never really eaten olives before, that the puny, meagre, olive-shaped things I'd bought in jars in Ireland were not so much olives as insults to olives, shameful betrayals of the olive experience." In Kashmir, he isolates himself on a houseboat in order to scientifically study the effects of ketamine. "I imagined I was conducting important research at the limits of consciousness, but I see now I was just getting fucked up on a boat." In Berlin, he dances all night at an immense sex club where "every freak in Europe had apparently converged." As necessary as eating or laughing, dancing gives him "access to a state of unselfconsciousness. There was always someone older or younger, nakeder or weirder than you." So is he writing "the great backpacker dropout novel" or "the great Berlin techno novel? he wonders. Whatever it is, it provides one of the wildest experiences you can have without regrets or hangovers.If you long for your misspent youthor didn't have onehere you go. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Beginning in Dublin, Doyle's second novel (Here are the Young Men, 2014), follows writer Rob across the globe as he explores art, literature, his sexual appetites, and the mind-altering experiences of numerous drugs. He is ashamed of his desires, unsure of what he wants from life, and drifts aimlessly from city to city. As he travels from Paris to Sicily, San Francisco, and Berlin, he writes elegantly and powerfully about numerous writers and thinkers. Moreover, he involves himself in many contemporary art circles, as well as psychoactive endeavors. Each section of the novel is set in a single location. Rob's experiences on the Berlin club scene are brilliantly depraved, and the final chapter on DMT is funny, shocking, and deeply thought-provoking. Written in an almost resigned style, Doyle's self-portrait of a writer brings to mind the struggling young writer protagonists in Ben Lerner's Leaving the Atocha Station (2014) and Sheila Heti's fiction. Written in lyrical prose that often masks the bleakness of his narrator's worldview, this tragicomic, introspective, and philosophical work beautifully explores the limits of our understanding.


Library Journal Review

Rob is an Irish writer living a peripatetic existence. He never settles in one place for long, sometimes decamping to Paris or Berlin for a few months to work on a novel or visiting Zagreb or Blanes, Spain, on assignment. Wherever he goes, he beats the boundaries between traveling and tripping, drinking and experimenting with psychedelic drugs while reading and writing. Oftentimes, Rob's journeys entail visiting the resting places of writers he admires, as well as museums and clubs, shadowing the pursuit of new experiences by honoring the dead. But what is this book? Memoir? Travelog? Fiction? It doesn't matter. Rob observes that a novel is whatever he tells it to be, that it is, ultimately, something to read. VERDICT Confidently told, this second long-form work from Doyle (after Here Are the Young Men) alternates 11 vignettes with letters to an anonymous correspondent as the masterly narrative pacing brilliantly counterbalances lurid episodes and sometimes terror with devastating wit and epiphany. As ever, Doyle's prose is compulsively readable, and his insights always credible and occasionally astonishing.--John G. Matthews, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman