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Spurious: A Novel Paperback – January 25, 2011
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"A tiny marvel of comically repetitive gloomery.... [A] wonderfully monstrous creation."
—Steven Poole, The Guardian
—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."
"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."
"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."
"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.”
"Iyer's playfully cerebral debut [is]... piquant, often hilarious, and gutsy."
"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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Top Customer Reviews
"W. is a mystic. One day he might become properly religious. He says that he might. Sometimes he feels on the verge of religion."
And Lars, a prophet of sorts:
"Somewhere on the other side of the wall, life has reached a new level. Somewhere, damp mutters to itself; damp dreams, there behind the wall. And what will it say when it comes to itself? What will it say when it wakes up?
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.
I loved it. So funny~ & thought-provoking~ & ridiculous...in a good way. I agree with one reviewer~ the chapter on Canada was hilarious.
You will think about this book days later and want to share it with your smart friends.
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.) obese, stupid, lazy, untalented, ill-mannered, incapable of love, and without any fashion sense.
The story careens between the philosophical and the frivolous (as when W. tries to persuade Lars that a "man bag" is preferable to a rucksack). One moment W. and Lars are discussing the relationship between God and mathematics, the next they're pondering the causes of the incurable dampness in Lars' flat or the merits of living in Canada, where residents presumably carry "bear-frightening devices" in their vehicles. There is a zany intelligence, an absurdist wit at work here (in that sense, Spurious reminded me of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead). Lars Iyer takes two characters who are lost in existential angst -- indifferent to their fates, deliberately living meaningless lives, convinced they are powerless to change the hopelessness and suffering that surrounds them -- and exposes their vapid, self-indulgent natures. Iyer's satirical take on intellectualism is spot on. Anyone acquainted with a "serious thinker" who takes his or her thinking too seriously will smile with recognition while reading Spurious.
At the same time, intermingled with the silliness are bits of genuine philosophy, deep thought disguised as idle chatter. The book demands a second reading just to sift out the sense from the nonsense, assuming it's possible to tell one from the other. As W. moans, he can never be sure whether he is "at the summit of his creativity or the peak of his idiocy."
This isn't a book for readers who can't abide stories that have no plot. This is a novel of comedic conversation, an examination of two friends who travel together, who gaze at the sea and mull over their lives, confess their shortcomings, debate the meaning of friendship, discuss obscure filmmakers, mourn or welcome (depending on their mood) the coming apocalypse, and accomplish nothing. If you can appreciate the humor in that, and don't mind that nothing of consequence happens to the two characters, you'll probably enjoy Spurious. It's fresh, it's original, it's insightful, and above all, it's hilarious.