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TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 27, 2012
Lars and W., two friends last seen wandering through life in Spurious, return in Dogma. The end is still near. Lars is still the butt of W's scathing criticism and the recipient of his opinions on subjects ranging from courtship to capitalism. Lars' flat is still damp. Lars and W. are still loyal to their idealistic vision of an unspoiled Canada. They are still fond of Kafka and Plymouth gin. They are still trying to understand religion and Rosenzweig. They still embrace life while feeling defeated by it, no more consequential than "leaves swept up in an autumn storm."

New in Dogma: W. images himself as Diogenes during a visit to Nashville ("the Athens of the South"), while deeming Lars "a Diogenes gone mad"; Lars and W. compare the British to Americans (who can't make true distinctions, particularly when it comes to gin); Lars writes poetry of despair; W. takes Lars on a pointing tour of Plymouth (where Lars photographs W. pointing at architecture he admires).

Also new is the intellectual movement that W. and Lars decide to christen. They call it Dogma. Dogma has rules. Dogma is spartan, full of pathos, sincere, and collaborative. Ironically, W. and Lars are none of those things, making them poor standard-bearers for the movement they invent. They are, however, according to W., "the last friends of thought." It is up to them to keep thought alive. That effort is slightly hampered by a new rule: "The Dogmatist must always be drunk" because "who can bear the thoughts that must be thought?" Fortunately they think just as much, and about as clearly, when they are drunk as when they are sober, although after drinking they have trouble remembering the other rules (not that it matters, since they add new rules on a whim).

In my favorite section of Dogma, Lars and W. travel to America on a lecture tour (their lectures, unsurprisingly, are sparsely attended). As the best and (mostly) worst of America rolls past -- novelty motels, "huge crosses looming over nowhere," miniature golf courses -- I was reminded of Humbert Humbert in Lolita. W. is as acerbic as Humbert but funnier; his commentary provokes chuckles and occasional belly laughs ("They've made a Disneyland of Armageddon!").

When a sequel is more of the same, a reader probably shouldn't complain if it is a sequel to something wonderful. Dogma gives us more of the same biting humor, more of the same maddening characters, more of the same nutrition for our minds. Still, one of the things I loved about Spurious was the sense that I'd never read anything like it. That magical feeling was missing while reading Dogma, because I've read something exactly like it: Spurious. And that, really, is one of my only two complaints about Dogma: the feeling that I was reading outtakes from Spurious. The second is that Dogma has more philosopher in-jokes than Spurious (at least I think they're in-jokes; not being a philosopher I can't pretend to understand them). I think Spurious is a bit more accessible to those of us who aren't intimately acquainted with the history of philosophy.

Those mild criticisms aside, Dogma is just as funny and provocative and stimulating as Spurious. These books are as much about friendship as anything else, and reading Dogma is like visiting old friends (albeit the kind of friends you want to keep at a distance lest they begin to annoy). I'll therefore look forward to the third book of Lars Iyer's trilogy, but with the hope that Iyer finds a way to differentiate it from the first two. If I could, I would give Dogma 4 1/2 stars.
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on February 21, 2012
Dogma, unlike the author's previous novel, Spurious, has received mixed reviews. The latter was welcomed as a masterpiece, but when it came to the former the critics were not that enthusiastic. Now that I have read the novel I can say that I really wonder why? Why did they not like it as much as Spurious? For me this a great novel, as it combines humor, irony, philosophical thought, amazing discussions-monologues and a peripatetic mood.
Even though Dogma is the second novel in a not so closely knit trilogy, which will come to its end next year with the Exodus, one can easily read it as a standalone volume.
The main protagonists in this story are two friends: W, who's a Catholic Jew atheist and Lars, who's more or less, or rather less than more, Hindu. The first thinks too much and philosophizes a lot about the end of days, while at the same time he's preparing two projects on capitalism and religion ("Capitalism is the evil twin of true religion," he claims), while the second just lives, or maybe I should say survives, in the shadow of his friend. I think that this is one of the oddest couple of friends that I've ever encountered in world literature. They are so different from each other that the only thing that seems to keep them close together is the simple fact that no one else could ever put up with them. W on the one hand, never stops thinking and talking, every now and then he points his poisonous words towards his friend, who's a non-thinker, he often enough throws one-liners in their conversations while trying to make a point, he gets angry and revolts constantly, at least in his head, and he makes new decisions all the time; decisions which sometimes he sticks to, but most times he doesn't; to put it simply he's not only a man of words, but also one of action. As for Lars, who's the narrator, he simply seems to be nothing more than a receptacle. He just listens to his friend, he puts up with his whims, he follows him in his varied adventures, he learns from him, and every now and then, when he absolutely has to, he opens his mouth to say a few words to appease the spirits and bring serenity to W's soul. Most of the times all he has to do to achieve that is quote the Vedas or tell him stories from the Hindu mythology.
Their dialogues, or rather W's monologues, are simply a joy to behold. And, as one would expect, quotation time it is: "You should never learn from your mistakes"; "We must read if we want to live"; "We're not capable of god"; "Philosophy's like an unrequited love affair"; "Always claim the ideas of others as your own"; "The Dogma must always be drunk"; "Only the hopeless can truly understand the everyday."
W looks and sounds like a prophet of the end. He expects catastrophe to hit the earth any time now; and he feels that more strongly than ever in America, where the ignorant natives apart from having no Plymouth Gin for sale, they have also "made a Disneyland of Armageddon."
"It's time to die," he says at the end, "but death does not come." Thankfully, I should add; because if it did then we'd miss the opportunity to enjoy the third part of his unique mental and physical escapades.
Highly recommended to everyone out there who loves good literary fiction.
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on October 6, 2012
This is the sequel to SPRURIOUS and like its predecessor, quite funny in parts.I thought the funniest part was when W compares himself to a mandrill.Like SPURIOUS, Lars and W spend a lot of time discussing and thinking about esoterica and getting drunk.It does get a little wearisome after 50 pages but you feel compelled to finish it.The book is a good advertisement for Plymouth gin.I'm not real convinced that there is much point in the further adventures of Lars and W.
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on August 2, 2014
OK, I guess. Maybe I just didn't get it but I didn't see much humor or much point.
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