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Spurious: A Novel Paperback – January 25, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"A tiny marvel of comically repetitive gloomery.... [A] wonderfully monstrous creation."  
Steven Poole, The Guardian

"Viciously funny."
San Francisco Chronicle

"The high value Iyer places on essential human relations is a rebuke to those who deride 'experimental' fiction as narcissistic or self-indulgent evasions of emotion."
—The New Inquiry

"What could be more fun than laughing at intellectuals? This, Lars Iyer's first book, sprang from his blog, Spurious, which sprang from his career as a philosophy lecturer at Newcastle University. I'm still laughing, and it's days later. But who, exactly, am I laughing at?"
—The Los Angeles Times

"Ought to be unreadable, but manages to be intelligent, wildly entertaining, and unexpectedly moving instead."
The Millions

"Who should buy this book? Intellectuals who face intellectual troubles in their own lives. There's a lot of biting satire about the shortcomings and general foolishness of the so-called life of the mind. This is graduate student wit, which is fearsomely funny."
—The Washington Post

"[A] hilarious and eminently quotable debut novel."
—Modern Painters

"A tragic mein... undercuts the sheer hilarity of Lars Iyer's Spurious....A narrative My Dinner With Andre turned on end.... To read Spurious is to discuss Kafka's The Castle and farts in one exacting sentence--all the while reeking of gin." 
—NYLON Magazine

"Evoking literary duos like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and Othello and Iago, Iyer's portrait of two insufferable academics fumbling for enlightenment illustrates what the author comically calls the most honorable cruelty: friendship....Solipsistic and chatty, Spurious is a comedy in the vein of Bernhard's The Loser or Beckett's The Unnameable. Echoes of "You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on" haunt every scene."

"Spurious is an amusing take on intellectual frustration and anomie, its two characters going through the motions in a world where it's unclear what the right motions are any longer."
—The Complete Review

“Few writers can make personal gloom, the pervasive amorality of capitalism, cataclysmic climate change and the apocalypse comical, but Lars Iyer is one. Yet his lightness is deceptive. While Spurious may seem like Laurel & Hardy at the End of Times, it is also a profound philosophical rhapsody playing out the culmination of the religious narratives of East and West.”
Stephen Mitchelmore

"Iyer's playfully cerebral debut [is]... piquant, often hilarious, and gutsy."
Publisher's Weekly

"There’s always Spurious, a new comic novel by Lars Iyer, a lecturer in philosophy at Newcastle University. Official plot summary: 'Two yammering intellectuals ponder life and the fungus taking over one of their homes.'”
—The New York Times Book Review

"In W. and Lars, Iyer has given us not so much Brod and Brod but a pair of hilarious and entertaining Quixotes - you're unlikely to find more diverting philosophers anywhere."
—The Daily Herald

About the Author

Lars Iyer is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Newcastle. He is the author of two books on Blanchot (Blanchot's Communism: Art, Philosophy and the Political and Blanchot's Vigilance: Literature, Phenomenology and the Ethical) and his blog Spurious. He is also a contributor to Britain's leading literary blog, Ready, Steady, Book.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House; Reprint edition (January 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193555428X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935554288
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #681,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lars Iyer is the author of the novel WITTGENSTEIN JR (2014). He has also written a trilogy of novels, SPURIOUS, DOGMA and EXODUS, which has received rave reviews in nearly all major literary publications including The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Spectator and The Believer.

Lars Iyer has also written two scholarly books on the work of Maurice Blanchot, and teaches philosophy at Newcastle University, UK.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on December 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
If it weren't so funny, Spurious would be insanely depressing. W. and the novel's narrator, Lars, both know that, lacking the genius of Kafka, they will amount to nothing. They have been destroyed by literature; it has made them "vague and full of pathos." They are equally unskilled as philosophers. They would like to be intellectuals but they suffer from a deficiency of intellect. Drinking their way through Europe, they are overwhelmed by history that magnifies their own insignificance. A double suicide seems to be in order, but the logistics of accomplishing that task are beyond them. Yet even their deaths would be pointless because they are inconsequential parts of larger structure, easily replaced by others of no greater importance.

Paradoxically, the gloomy friends describe themselves as "joyful." They tell themselves that they are content with their idiocy. They are "celebrants of rivers"; a view of the sea from a passing train while holding cups full of gin is their definition of happiness. Contradiction is a constant in their lives; they never seem to be bothered by (or even to notice) their inconsistency. W. strives to puzzle out the meanings of primary sources written in languages he doesn't understand and to decipher mathematical concepts that are well beyond him. That he gains nothing productive from these efforts does not deter him; he is certain that his life will be spent in continual amazement at his utter lack of ability. Lars, on the other hand, is a capable administrator; he feels the need to earn a living, for which W. frequently belittles him. In fact, Lars is the constant recipient of W.'s insults (W. regards verbal abuse as "a sign of love"): Lars is (according to W.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By One Million Monkeys on June 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
Lars and W., two would-be intellectuals, squabble and drink and abuse each other and drink some more and dream of one day, if they're lucky, having a true idea. No plot to speak of, but page after page of devilish fun. Highbrow and crass at turns. Wicked one-liners on every page. It's also surprisingly moving: when you've devoted your life to Kafka and continental philosophy, there are very few people you can turn to for companionship, and Lars and W. (for all their flaws) are incredibly lucky to have found each other. These two ludicrous men know their lives are absurd, but in their odd friendship they find a kind of rare delight.

If you love serious matters, but know better than taking yourself seriously, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the rather spare depiction of two absurd characters that immediately calls to mind a sort of revamped Waiting For Godot for the 21st century. Lars narrates the nothing-much-actually-happening happenings between himself and his friend W. They appear to be philosophy professors. They drink heavily. They worship Kafka. They both denigrate themselves and each other constantly as failures, as idiots, as apes. They muse bluntly and repetitively about the great meaninglessness and shittiness of everything, but also about the vague possibility of meaning and redemption (but mostly the former one). It's often viewed as a humorous take on the absurdity of existential angst, but it also becomes a bit boring in its (no doubt, intentional) over-repetition, though I still ultimately found it engaging, despite certain moments where I wished it would just shift gears or something.

The only real plot consists in this mysterious dampening of Lars' flat which causes a bizarre mold to colonize his home and the spores, his lungs. It's weird and takes on a metaphorical role in the book that's almost a little too obvious.

There are clever and even moving bits, but mostly it reads as a very cynical and straightforward mockery of academia and intellectual life that only an academic and intellectual could write and/or appreciate reading.

This book is the first of a trilogy the author (who is unsurprisingly a philosopher first, and novelist second) has concocted and though I ultimately gave this three stars (though there were moments I considered four and maybe certain paragraphs where I may've considered five) I'm still interested to see where he takes these ridiculously dour characters next and will pick up Dogma, the second installment.
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