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Surfing on Finnegan's Wake & Riding the Range with Marshall McLuhan

And No Techno!

Surfing on Finnegan's Wake &
Riding the Range with Marshall McLuhan
: Terence McKenna
Mystic Fire Audio


he first time I heard the voice of Terence McKenna, the famed New Age spokesperson for those alien creatures who express themselves in psilocybin hallucinations, I found the experience painful. Perhaps it was the context. Over the noise of our loud office, through two huge stereo speakers, and partially obscured by a relentless techno soundtrack, McKenna was droning obscurely about the journey of human consciousness to a higher plane - or at least I think that's what he was talking about. "Somebody please turn it off," I prayed, and thankfully, somebody did.

When I saw that McKenna had released audio tapes of his lectures on James Joyce and Marshall McLuhan, I had to give the famous mycophagist another chance. I already knew that McLuhan was a big Joyce fan and that it was from the bottomless imbrications and bejeweled depths of Finnegan's Wake that McLuhan had retrieved some of his most durable ideas.

Finnegan's Wake remains murky to me, and I'm always interested in getting a little help. So when I saw that McKenna had paired these two writers, it seemed to be a sign that he had something intelligent to say.

In fact, he does. These two lectures are extraordinarily entertaining. McKenna's laconic drone and his casual but accurate explanations ease you right into the state of vulnerable curiosity necessary to absorb the obscure, hypnotic messages of Joyce and of one of his greatest readers.

McKenna's discussion is not startling - he describes Joyce's multivoiced work as a challenge to the proud rationality of enlightenment culture. He also calls upon McLuhan to show how modern media and electronic culture realize Joyce's vision of a world in which hallucinations, dream logic, and supraindividual thoughts function as the driver (or perhaps the back-seat driver) as we accelerate toward the millenium. McKenna quotes extensively and explains the hard parts clearly.

These tapes are fun. I listened to them in my car, where the background soundtrack, in the interstices of McKenna's sentences, included only blank and comforting silence.

By Gary Wolf

Illustration by Marcus Sorensen
Surfing on Finnegan's Wake & Riding the Range with Marshall McLuhan
2 cassettes; 120 minutes; US$18.95

Mystic Fire Audio
PO Box 422
Prince Street Station
New York, NY 10012

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