How to Give a Reading on Mushrooms

Arrive early and talk to Rita and her friends, unsure if they’re all also on mushrooms (as they’d previously agreed) because Rita giggles nonsequiturly even when sober, until an unsmiling woman in her 40s—the event organizer—approaches saying something about “housekeeping.” Follow her into the backroom and learn it’s important you speak clearly tonight, “into the microphone,” as the reading and Q&A are going to be “livestreamed” onto the internet. Because of the medium-large amount of mushrooms you ingested ~25 minutes ago this (and most things the next 80-120 minutes) will seem like evidence that the universe is idly but skillfully thwarting you to weakly amuse itself. Sign a waiver agreeing to be “livestreamed.” In the bathroom text message Rita asking if she’s on mushrooms, then notice you’re walking toward the bookstore’s exit, beyond which is Haight Street, distantly amused that you don’t know where you’re going. An acquaintance you haven’t seen in maybe two years enters the bookstore staring at you in a manner that seems openly suspicious. Walk to Rita and ask if she’s on mushrooms. Read “Yes we all are. Have fun!” from her cell phone held toward your face. Walk away a little, hazily discerning a pretty girl somewhere, and say “I feel worried” and “I feel scared” at a speaking volume to what seems to be no one. When the event organizer introduces you, for some reason using the word “housekeeping” again, you’re “loitering” alone near the magazines, not apparently doing anything. Walk carefully to the podium and open Richard Yates, your second novel.

Everything seems vaguely normal, in that things seem predictably surreal, as you read sentences about Haley Joel Osment and Dakota Fanning Gmail chatting about hamsters, until, after maybe two minutes, you realize you’ve been ignoring that there are tribal-tattoo patterns near the margins and in other places and that the text is glowing reddish-black and sometimes has a slightly 3D nature, like it’s projecting a holograph of itself an inch above the page. While trying to discern if your microphone is emitting science-fiction-like noises because it’s broken, because you’re emitting those noises, or because the mushrooms are causing you to hear things realize your heart is beating very hard and your upper body seems to be sweating profusely. Earnestly panic while also feeling unexpectedly calmed by a sudden, convincing, “dark” sensation that from the perspective of being dead it’s irrelevant if everyone in the room views you as insane. Briefly fixate on how you aren’t sure if you should be panicking or not. Should you just act completely insane? Think “Hunter S. Thompson” and distractedly sense the aesthetic of the movie Aliens. Consider saying “is there something wrong with the microphone, or is it the mushrooms?” before realizing, with some alarm and a shrinking feeling of aloneness, that the audience doesn’t know you’re on mushrooms. Prepare to maybe say “I’m having a bad drug experience right now” and go to the backroom and lay in darkness, under a desk in a fetal position, returning to complete the reading when you’re normal, but sort of “remember” that it will be hours, including a period of increasing complication, before you’re normal. Try to retain control by thinking “you probably look completely normal to them” and “people act insane all the time, normal people are insane” while focused on reading in a consistently pitched, speed-controlled, volume-controlled manner. Realize you’ve been becoming conscious of certain things in medias res, which means you’ve repeatedly been unconscious for unknown amounts of time. Focus on not moving your head or limbs or body, because if you don’t move it will be more difficult to do something completely insane. Become rapidly convinced that you’re about to exhibit out-of-control behavior. Feel confused about what this means. It seems like you’re going to sob loudly.

At some point realize you’ve been staring catatonically at the page, which seems to be liquidly moving within itself, for an unknown amount of time. Look up with unfocused eyes and a frightened expression and say “I’m just taking a break for a second.” Focus on different areas of the audience. Realize that varying the distance of your sight increases your feelings of control and begin while reading to sometimes look at the audience in a manner you’ve never done before but that’s probably normal for most authors, holding the book charismatically in front of you and sometimes smiling a little. Become fixated on an unseemly image of yourself “flailing” in a jellylike manner. Discern this fixation to be troubling but probably manageable. Focus on not moving in a jellylike manner and feel like you’re uncontrollably exhibiting a jellylike presence, no matter what you do, it seems, and notice you can’t seem to find the words “just come please” which you remember having just read. Stare at the page discerning only a mental projection of the word “just” in the foreground of a blurry mass that seems to be “roiling.” Think “seems completely impossible, really seems completely impossible” and close the book and slowly look up and say “that’s all I’m going to read” while grinning a little. Most of the audience seems to be viewing you with strong disapproval; an older couple in the front row seems “not amused” in a movie-like exaggeration of being unamused. Think “they disapprove of everything about me, especially that I’m on drugs right now” and “why are they even here, in the front row?” For a microsecond the entire audience seems to “squirm” in their seats. Think “Hunter S. Thompson.”

During the Q&A sometimes notice that some of your fingers are interestingly moving in a languidly tentacle-like manner, independent of your overall feeling of paranoid fear. At one point move your hand away from your face after realizing you’ve been unconsciously covering your mouth in a vulnerable, childlike manner for an unknown amount of time. Almost every question causes you to think “they don’t make any sense, they seem completely insane” in a briefly enthusiastic manner, as if something has been proven, then “no, it’s the mushrooms,” then “no, this is normal, remember how people just normally don’t make any sense?” Someone uses a White House press-meeting tone to ask a question you can only comprehend as implying that your entire book was written using only Gmail chat.

After the Q&A walk carefully toward a table and a chair ~10 feet to your left, where you will personalize copies of your books by drawing hamsters and upside-down crosses in them for the ~20 people who have formed a line. Prevent conversation by seeming engrossed in your drawings. Notice you’re drawing oval eyes instead of round eyes on some hamsters, which has never happened before, and earnestly think “brand, your brand.” Fear egregious mistakes like writing “to Tao / from Tao.” Sometimes stare “helplessly” into the distance, “searching” for the other people who are on mushrooms and seeing “no one” in a parody of not seeing anyone. When a 30-something man says to personalize his book “to Michael” write “to Frank” with a feeling of competency. When he sheepishly says “that’s okay” and reaches for the book, saying something about how it’s now worth more, think “oh my god…” and laugh. Draw a line over “Frank” and write “Michael.” Apologize three times while grinning insanely. TC mark


More From Thought Catalog

  • atmnyc


    • tao

      hi atm nyc

      thank you for your input

      seems sweet

  • magalina hagalina

    Thought I was going to be annoyed by this, but was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

    • tao


  • stephen


    “Earnestly panic while also feeling unexpectedly calmed by a sudden, convincing, 'dark' sensation that from the perspective of being dead it’s irrelevant if everyone in the room views you as insane.”

    • tao


  • Stephanie Georgopulos

    lol'ed multiple times, need to see the video

    • stephen
      • tao

        thank you for providing the link

  • Anonymousse

    tao gets it right

  • Zonks

    Wake up in the late afternoon.
    Check my email and find out nobody emailed me since last night
    Start the coffee maker and eat a bagel.
    Check Thought Catalog and read the Tao Lin article.
    Write a comment like Tao Lin.

  • DiTrapano

    “they don’t make any sense, they seem completely insane”


  • xtos

    WAS the book written only using gchat???

    • xtos

      also can is there a recording of the livestream i can view somewhere?

    • tao


  • Andrew F.

    Ahh, this is wonderful.

  • =++=

    I was there, and it was amazing. Shrooms made it way better. Thank you! :)

    • tao


      who were you

      • ooIIIoo

        I was with the people drinking sangria, I think maybe we tried to have a conversation, but you were on mushrooms, and I was on sangria. It would be sweet if more people were on mushrooms, more of the time, sangria is good too :)

      • jeju

        “on sangria”

  • Space mountain hallejugahagh

    meaningful when read while lisening to ambient choir music via cat's eyes

  • Ssod

    The video is hilarious. One you say “eggplant” and giggle, i think everyone realized your on something…

    • tao


      what, i said 'eggplant?'

      don't remember saying 'eggplant'


  • Julian Tully Alexander

    this was so good. I laughed 10-15 times during class.

    • tao

      10-15 times…jesus


      • Julian Tully Alexander

        I might be “that guy” in class

  • megan boyle

    i want to read “Uncontrollably Exhibiting a Jellylike Presence” essay collection

    • tao

      seems david sedaris-like to some degree

  • Kyle Petreycik

    I wish i went to this reading instead….

  • Brian McElmurry

    Hunter S. Thompson mantra is nice. Brave to do a reading on mushrooms.

  • chillwave gonzales

    I'm on some magic chill fungi myself, and am almost finished with the first draft of “How to Read 'How to Give a Reading on Mushrooms' on Mushrooms.” That title opens up chill space in me.

    • tao


      • chillwave gonzales

        Now I'm really sailing. Ten minutes ago I found myself in a tree. No idea how I got there. Mushroomwaveass.

  • brononamous

    hahhaha i vicariously flashed back to a mushroom trip through this piece, way to be carles

  • brian burke

    you seemed really normal. good job on not freaking out.

    • tao

      thank you

  • Scott Lewis

    why would they come to our concert just to boo us?

  • Jordan

    i enjoyed reading this

    felt high levels of interest throughout

    laughed out loud ~5x, i think

    i've also thought 'hunter s. thompson' in various scenarios, in a similar manner, i feel

    • tao


      just imagined…something…imagined something but then it seemed to disappear before i could discern it, except for something like two flailing arms that seemed tan maybe

      • Jordan

        thought something like 'bitch' then 'i'm tan…' then 'jelly… jellyfish' before clicking the link to this comment

        thought 'i'm tan' then 'I'M TAN!!!!' then [same thought with increasing belligerence, i feel] until it seemed clear that the page 'wasn't going to load'

        clicked the link again and it worked

      • tao

        imagined a rapper with shiny, diamond-like teeth sort of bulging out of his mouth doing gorilla-like movements with his arms while rapping about 'jellyfish'

        thought 'tan lin' sometimes

      • Jordan

        thought 'birdman' then 'gucci mane' then 'rich ass nigga with a mouth full of gold' then 'tan lin' then 'tao lean' then 'tan lin… tan lin…' while reading this

        clicked link feeling high levels of anticipation/anxiety re my leg moving quickly up and down in an involuntary-seeming manner

        imagined commenting “NIGGER!!!!!!!!!!” then “NIGGER JUICE!!!!!”

      • tao

        imagined a serene, end-of-movie-like scene of a rapper flying away slowly, flapping wings a little, in front of a pink and light-yellow colored sky

      • Jordan

        thought [something i forgot] then 'kill yourself' while 'scrolling' to get to this comment then 'well, why don't you just kill yourself then, faggot' then 'what's up'

      • Oscar Arias

        felt like something that was possibly rammed ~4x, in a way that made it have the consistency of acrylic paint, while thinking 'what the fuck', then 'this is long', 'damn'.

      • Carlos Ortiz

        soulja boy gucci wings

  • Travis Baugh

    read this while eating a thing of golden double stuf oreos

  • John

    Nice article, but it really begs the question: why the hell did you take mushrooms before doing a reading? Did you have a specific purpose in doing it, or did you not know you were going to do a reading until after you ingested the shrooms?

    • tao

      i wanted to see what it would be like, i felt it would be a more exciting experience for both me and the audience

      • Rachel Butters Scotch

        would you do it again?

      • tao


      • Ruthlezz

        I will dose you the next time you come to the Duck.


    I felt panic and then relief that it went ok.

    Reading this made my day!

  • saramcgrath

    enjoyable, concise, interesting. thought 'perspective…' at the end

blog comments powered by Disqus