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I was always somewhat put off by the idea of LSD. Its capacity to alter per- ception, to distort reality, to be a force of destabilizing uncertainty, appeared to me to be more terrifying than tempting. Any prospect of pleasure was overshadowed by fears of mental disintegration.

But LSD – as with some other drugs – seems to be staging a reputational rehabilitation. Galen Strawson this week reviews Michal Pollan’s How To Change Your Mind, which offers an account of the science behind – and his views of the benefits of – this mind-expanding, mind-revealing drug. Of course, one challenge in any reconsideration is a linguistic and descriptive one: “psychedelic” by now immediately conjures images of “Day-Glo” colours, grubby Sixties self-indulgence and hippy blather. And the search to describe the sensation of being high takes in all sorts of offputting pseudo-religious waffle, of the “transcendent”, “blissful” variety.

Strawson notes that “there is an extraordinary degree of agreement, on the part of those who have successful ‘trips’ under suitably controlled conditions, that the fundamental principle of reality is love”. This is more than mere beatnik “twaddle”, not least because it offers hope as a treatment to those whom life has rendered love-lorn: “an ovarian cancer patient in remission who lived in terror of a recurrence, but lost all fear during psychedelic therapy”, for example. As Strawson puts it: “it seems better, after all, to go gentle into that good night, and hum in the dying of the light”.

Perhaps psychedelic drugs offer no more than a version of that great post-Edenic ideal: a return to innocence, to the unfiltered pleasures of youth. Children, according to one theory, “are basically tripping all the time”; it is only inhibited adults that have need of artificial assistance to try.

One such adult is the novelist Tao Lin, whose book Trip is reviewed by Toby Lichtig. The latter notes that we now “live in a golden age of illegal drug-taking”. The Times even ran an article recently with the headline “is LSD the new middle class dinner party treat?”. Answers to the letters page, please. Lin is, apparently, strong on the legal mess of drug prevention, but “less appealing when his gaze turns inward”. As Lichtig says, “drug experience is so particular and in the moment that, much like sex, it is hard to write about well”. The problem with those who proselytise about the benefits of drugs is not their roguish attraction but their entitled solipsism. If we are to reconsider first principles about psychedelics, and drugs more generally, there is perhaps work to be done in the realms of language and artistry as well as science.

SA

PHARMACOLOGY

3 Galen Strawson

Toby Lichtig

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 6

POLITICS & HISTORY

7 Michael Vatikiotis

Adrian Vickers

BIOGRAPHY

10 Robert Bringhurst

Jennie Erin Smith

LITERARY CRITICISM 12 Eri Hotta

LITERATURE

13 Kate Chisholm

MEMOIRS & BIOGRAPHY 14 Natasha Lehrer

Jamie Fisher

PAKISTAN

FREELANCE

ARTS

FICTION

LETTERS

16 Ali Bhutto

17 Gerald Mangan

18 Michael Caines

Judith Flanders

20 Bryan Karetnyk

Yoojin Grace Wuertz

Ellie Robins Esi Edugyan

23 Marc Robinson

MEMOIRS

HISTORY

NATURAL HISTORY

TRAVEL

IN BRIEF

HISTORY & ARCHITECTURE

24 Megan Marz

Camille Ralphs

25 Nick Lloyd

Ann Kennedy Smith

27 Sara Hudston

Richard Smyth

28 Horatio Clare

30

Caroline Eden Colin Marshall

32 Bryan Cheyette

Kathleen Christian

FROM THE ARCHIVES 34

NB

35

36 J. C.

Michael Pollan How To Change Your Mind – The new science of psychedelics Tao Lin Trip – Psychedelics, alienation, and change

‘Being Human’, Kant’s parable, Gourmet Catholics, etc

Jonathan Miller Duterte Harry – Fire and fury in the Philippines. Richard Javad Heydarian The Rise of Duterte – A populist revolt against elite democracy Geoffrey B. Robinson The Killing Season – A history of the Indonesian massacres, 1965–66. Jess Melvin The Army and Indonesian Genocide – Mechanics of mass murder. Soe Tjen Marching The End of Silence – Accounts of the 1965 genocide in Indonesia

Andrew Schelling Tracks Along the Left Coast – Jaime de Angulo and Pacific Coast culture Eskil Engdal and Kjetil Sæter Catching Thunder – The true story of the world’s longest sea chase; Translated by Diane Oatley

John Nathan Sòseki – Modern Japan’s greatest novelist

Patricia Highsmith Deep Water. Catherine E. Riley The Virago Story. Antonia White Frost in May. Writers as Readers – A celebration of Virago Modern Classics. Daphne du Maurier Rebecca

Françoise Frenkel No Place To Lay One’s Head; Translated by Stephanie Smee. Edith Eger The Choice Sarah Krasnostein The Trauma Cleaner – One woman’s extraordinary life in death, decay and disaster. Susannah Walker The Life of Stuff – A memoir about the mess we leave behind

Corridors of uncertainty – Examining Pakistan’s political landscape

Rocking, rolling – Playing the harmonica on a barge in Paris

Shakespeare Othello (Shakespeare’s Globe). King Lear (Duke of York’s Theatre) Alan Bennett Allelujah (Bridge Theatre)

Jay Rubin, editor The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories. Yoko Tawada The Last Children of Tokyo; Translated by Margaret Mitsutani Yùko Tsushima Territory of Light. Child of Fortune; both translated by Geraldine Harcourt Norah Lange People in the Room; Translated by Charlotte Whittle Clank and shirr – An extract from Washington Black

Peggy L. Fox and Thomas Keith, editors The Luck of Friendship – The letters of Tennessee Williams and James Laughlin

Emma Brockes An Excellent Choice Patricia Lockwood Priestdaddy – A memoir

Jonathan Boff Haig’s Enemy. David Stevenson 1917. Matthias Strohn, editor 1918. Richard Overy The Birth of the RAF, 1918 Serinity Young Women Who Fly

Helen Jukes A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings Tim Dee, editor Ground Work

Bill Colegrave, editor Scraps of Wool – A journey through the golden ages of travel writing William Atkins The Immeasurable World – Journeys in desert places Ian Buruma A Tokyo Romance – A memoir

David Wood Filming “If . . . .”, etc

Mitchell Duneier Ghetto. Wendy Z. Goldman and Joe Trotter, Jr, editors The Ghetto in Global History Katharine T. von Stackelberg and Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis Housing the New Romans

Hugh I’Anson Fausset on Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception (TLS February 19, 1954) and Heaven and Hell (TLS March 9, 1956)

This week’s contributors, Crossword

Literary taste, Sherlock shooting up, The TLS in literature

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