There’s a point in Rob Doyle’s Threshold (that I can’t find because I read the book “bareback” on my Kindle) where Rob (the protagonist of Threshold) questions the necessity of much of what is published today. Rob posits a need for vital urgency before publishing; that there’s too many books. Whether there’s a vital urgency for the reader beneath Rob Doyle’s writing is up in the air, but if the publishing industry were to ask for a baseline of quality then Threshold should be where it’s set.
Doyle’s prose is a serenade. Well practiced, note perfect, and tonally ringing it charts a peripatetic searcher as he spends time in a multitude of cities looking to surmount the heights—or more accurately travail the shadowy valleys—of the innate knowledge, the deep feeling that there is more to all this. Much like the cliche, the real treasure is the friends we make along the way; what we learn as we go; our experiences that build. This is especially the case as Rob’s searching is, serendipitously (to be charitable), finished by the end of the novel, with an inexplicable—and so unrevealed—meaning found through DMT; the spirit molecule. He’s asked himself, found himself, but Rob Doyle serves only Rob Doyle.
A book of questions then, with searching at the heart of it, but the main question surrounding the book is the package it comes in, “What is this?” Is it fiction, non-fiction, auto-fiction, confession, memoir? There’s an underlying assumption to this wondering that few of those asking ever reveal. One answer is shouldered by Doyle’s proposition that the book is, simply, a novel; enough words strung together. This belies the distinction a reader makes when approaching fiction, non-fiction, confession, or memoir. If something has been lived (and then written) its value is assumed at a different level to a fictional story. If something is fiction, then we want to know why an author has gone to the effort to imagine it into being. The difference between these two approaches is purpose; real life is mined for purpose whatever way it has spent itself; fiction is presumed to be brought about for purpose, to carry meaning in its bones.
Ultimately, Rob as written by Rob Doyle is the lad you meet in the pub, who, if so inclined, recounts his recent travels to you as you stare at your pint you’re certain someone else must be drinking, before you then buy him a round, and he returns the gesture, eventually coming to the point where you’re asking the barman for a cost-price bottle of whiskey to take home with you. Unlike this lad you meet in the pub, no intoxicants (or loneliness, or horniness) are necessary to appreciate the story. And much like this lad in the pub, who you probably won’t meet again, the veracity of the story isn’t the point. As your vision begins to tunnel and your laughs get louder, your purpose of the night in the pub has been met; you’re drunk, you’re entertained; you’ve not found purpose to your non-drinking days but for now they’re far away.
That Threshold’s ultimate reveal is kept from us is a reflection of Rob’s underlying truth. This is his journey, not yours or mine, and it is a—possibly the—truth of his journey as novel. True insight, true purpose is entirely one’s own. It is not in books, but neither is it in living. I have a feeling that true purpose for Rob (as is said in the book) is simply writing the book. In this way true insight was hidden from me: I did not write this book. Even reading Rob’s purpose—the book—it is not Rob or Rob Doyle’s to give. Instead he shows how it might be revealed to us, or, to be more accurate, how it can be bagged up into an experience, vicariously lived (reading to you and I) that brings us to a fractal developing more and more people asking that same heartfelt question. With this higher purpose in mind I do wonder if anyone not already asking this will begin to question, or if those on a similar path can do more than simply nod at a fellow traveller.
Threshold follows Rob’s continuing questioning as written by Rob Doyle. I can’t answer if this book will inspire you to ask yourself questions, directly or not. I asked some, but mostly I was assuaged by the smooth, sweet prose reassuring me there are others on the same trip.