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Spurious by Lars Iyer
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Spurious (2011)

by Lars Iyer

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Unsure how, when or why this ended up on my to-read list. It's a short book, kindof a diary written by Lars, chronicling his and his friend W.'s attempts to have "thoughts" worth writing about, and W.'s fatalistic views. There's a lot of discussion of them being Max Brods in search of a Kafka and the implications thereof, so it helps to be familiar with that history. Interesting and strange and maybe worth more than three stars, but it was just so far out of my usual zone that I wasn't sure what to do with it. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Mar 10, 2016 |
Very funny! and very moving, and very much to think about here -- I can't quite imagine two more volumes of the same, but -- bring them on! ( )
  V.V.Harding | Apr 21, 2015 |
If you:...read too much Heidegger, Spinoza, and Kierkegaard in your formative years which then caused all experiences from puberty onward to become internal debates, crises of consciousness, self-reflexive moments that forced you to pull a Hamlet and dwell in your head rather than enjoy life without over-thinking it like those who read, say, Judy Blume in lieu of Kafka.

...have ever gotten drunk and thought that you were the Messiah.

...have ever gotten drunk and thought that your interlocutor was the Messiah.

...think that Béla Tarr is the Messiah.

...prefer your action rendered as "action" and thereafter rendered in Socratic dialogue, punctuated by ejaculations of "moor!" and "river!"

...think that we are in the end of days.

...are a fan of Derrida & co. and need a laughingly perverse bout of crying or a cryingly perverse bout of laughing.

...have a problem with damp in your flat and make not mountains out of molehills but allegories out of mold spores.

...admire your best friend more than yourself (as does he).... well, then, you must hastily get your hands on a copy of this and begun reading your way through Iyer's trilogy tout de suite. ( )
  proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
What a tonic this book was! It’s buddy-fiction, part of a great tradition from Don Quixote to Waiting for Godot. (Not forgetting vaudeville's contributions, like Abbott and Costello). Its hapless anti-heroes revere Kafka, but the real life Lars Iyer, if not his namesake character in the book, has done something Kafka couldn’t, which is to make existential dread and despair (ha-ha) funny without making them less (ah-ha) serious. (Especially now that late capitalist cultural vacuity and the hovering possibility of ecocide have only made them cut deeper). Iyer does this trick as neatly as Beckett, an author I thought would never be followed. I’m looking forward to reading the next two books in the trilogy; I think there’s no one I’d rather await the apocalypse with than these two - new and necessary iterations of the cosmic clown. ( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
I read this for fun while I was teaching Notes from Underground, and, unfortunately for Mr Iyer, the comparison doesn't do him much good. The best case scenario for Spurious (and the title hints that this might be right) is: this book tries to do for late twentieth century ideas what Dostoevsky's Notes did for mid nineteenth century ideas, i.e., show the hollow stupidity. It certainly does that. If you're my age or a little older or a little younger, you probably had to/desperately wanted to read many of the names dropped here, explicitly or implicitly: W. Benjamin; Deleuze; Blanchot; Levinas; Heidegger; Rosenzweig; Scholem. You probably got a little bit out of some of them. You probably got more out of Kafka, who figures even more heavily here. So in Spurious, you get 'Lars's' memory of his conversations with another guy. They're both academics, presumably in a cultural studies or critical theory department. The more forceful one, W., seems to be convinced that they're idiots and will never know what it means to 'think.' So, like the Underground man before them, they vacillate and end up doing very little, before living through a very resonant, very brief plot (for the Underground man, the attempt to save a prostitute; for W. and Lars, a Kafka-esque struggle against rising damp). Another obvious touchstone here: Beckett's stripping away of 'literature' from his plays.

So far so curious. But for the book to really get anywhere, either the implied author, or the narrator, or the character W. needs to realize that the ideas they're swimming around in are garbage in very obvious and fundamental ways: there is no 'thought' of a detached, genius kind, not anywhere. There is no 'experience of thought,' unless you're on drugs, and there's a reason your thoughts on drugs are garbage. There's a reason, too, that the 'thinkers' in the above tradition drift towards history of religion, particularly non-conformist themes like mysticism and messianism; you get the frisson of believing in something without really actually believing in anything.

I'm not convinced, though, that the book is really a critique of those ideas (and the lifestyle which goes along with them) on any level. In too many ways, it looks like an attempt to fulfill them. But when you fulfill garbage ideas, you get garbage.

So, Iyer writes very, very well, but ultimately this reminds me of Philip Roth. Amazing facility with language paucity of intelligent reflection = readable, funny, touching, intellectually bankrupt books. I hope the sequel, 'Dogma,' gives me reason to think that Iyer's doing much more than that. ( )
1 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
True to its interest in Messianism and Jewish mysticism, Spurious is, finally, a book about waiting. W. and Lars wait, as Beckett’s characters do, as Kafka’s do. It might also be a book about salvation, about joy—unless salvation is impossible, and joy another symptom of idiocy. This novel has a seductive way of always doubling back on itself, scorching the earth but extracting its own strange brand of laughter from its commitment to despair.
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 193555428X, Paperback)

In a raucous debut that summons up Britain's fabled Goon Squad comedies, writer and philosopher Lars Iyer tells the story of someone very like himself with a "slightly more successful" friend and their journeys in search of more palatable literary conferences and better gin. One reason for their journeys: the narrator's home is slowly being taken over by a fungus that no one seems to know what to do about.

Before it completely swallows his house, the narrator feels compelled to solve some major philosophical questions (such as "Why?") and the meaning of his urge to write, as well as the source of the fungus ... before it is too late. Or, he has to move.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:41 -0400)

The narrator's home is slowly being taken over by a fungus that no one seems to know what to do about. Before it completely swallows his house, the narrator feels compelled to solve some major philosophical questions (such as "Why?") and the meaning of his urge to write, as well as the source of the fungus before it is too late. Or, he has to move.… (more)

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