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Spurious (Spurious #1)

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  474 ratings  ·  77 reviews
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 o ...more
ebook, 176 pages
Published January 26th 2011 by Melville House (first published January 25th 2011)
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Recipe: How to make Spurious


1/2 gallon gin (any alcohol will do)

1 copy Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives

3/4 cups Bruce Robinson's Withnail and I

1 cup Thomas Bernhard's The Loser

2 DVD copies Bela Tarr's Damnation

1/4 cup Tsai Ming-liang's The Hole

1 drop Tao Lin's Shoplifting from American Apparel

1 clown nose

The complete works of Franz Kafka

3/4 cups Rosenzweig's The Star of Redemption

5 cans laughter

4,000 lbs. mushrooms


1.) Before you begin, remind yourself that Wittgens
What place do we have in the world? None. Where's it all going? To perdition. To desolation, and to the abomination of desolation. And are we going with it? All the way! That's where we're heading now with our gin and our apocalypticism, full speed into the night.

I was first made aware of the novel Spurious by Goodreader [p]. He is now gone, into the ether. Or night. I miss him and his reviews. I likely spend too much time pondering that "miss." Spurious details a friendship. The parties are Lar
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
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 ...more
Andrea Paterson
I really enjoyed this book, though I don't think everyone will. I loved it for its hilarious exploration of writing and academia and what it means to be a truly great thinker. W. is a fantastically contrary character who manages to be both self-deprecating and narcissistic. The narrator is verbally abused by W. throughout the whole story and I was thoroughly amused by the two friends' pursuit of "ideas" and great thoughts. Throw in a contention that the End Times are near, an apartment slowly be ...more
Justin Evans
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 rea ...more
Ben Loory
i almost loved this book. it's really very funny, and the writing is so clear, it's like a window. it's a portrait of a friendship between two (idiot?) philosophers; kind of a mix between beckett and wodehouse. the only thing it lacks is some kind of happening which might lead to an actual story. (there is the "creeping dampness in the walls" thing, but that never really goes anywhere.) in any case, it's very charming; i smiled the whole way through. it's just that after a while, you get that's ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

By all laws of the current literary market, the comedic novels Spurious and Dogma by philosopher Lars Iyer (comprising two-thirds of an as-yet unfinished trilogy) shouldn't really exist at all, and it's a testament to the suddenly hot Melville House that they've not only published them, but have been promo
Cheryl Anne Gardner
Contemplating the id, the ego, and humanity at large through criticism of the self. An interesting approach, and so I loved this book. Laughed almost the entire way through it. The sarcasm. The idiotic generalizations. The hate/loathe/detest relationship the two characters have with one another vis-à-vis the idea of living in general, and the damp reminded me of the scene in the movie "Eraserhead" where the dirt and vegetation take over the apartment. Much the same as our characters here fear th ...more
Spurious is narrated by a writer named Lars, and the story's about his friendship with another writer, W. The narrative voice, with its mix of aimlessness and repetitiveness and deadpan humor, kind of reminded me of Martin Millar's writing, except more explicitly smart/philosophical (though as far as W.'s concerned, the narrator's really quite stupid). Much of the book consists of the narrator recounting his conversations with W., and the slight remove that this creates is really appealing to me ...more
Feb 16, 2013 Will rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Scott Maize, Aaron Harrison
Shelves: to-re-read
Philosophy made fun. A darkly funny take on the simultaneous meaninglessness and joyfulness of human existence. Two academic philosophers, W. and Lars, live in England, go to some academic conferences, reminisce about a trip to Poland, drink a lot, W. makes fun of Lars, and they talk about philosophy. And it's really fun and entertaining, even if you don't know anything about philosophy (like me!). The narrator is Lars. Lars Iyer is the author of the book. Lars Iyer, the author, is an academic p ...more
" 'These are truly the last days...' W. is making me listen to Godspeed's Dead Flag Blues again. 'Shut up and listen'. He plays this to the students, he says. And he makes them watch Béla Tarr. That's what he calls teaching, he says."

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!
Lee Razer
To paraphrase Seinfeld, "It's a book about Nothing!" Okay, not exactly, it's a book about two academics, philosophers, who want to have Thoughts, and live in the world of Ideas, only they're too stupid, they realize, they know this, they can't accomplish anything, so the one verbally abuses the other to delightful effect, and they seek a Leader who can provide them Thoughts, only whenever they find one they scare him away by telling him they're his followers, so mostly they try to read books whi ...more
I suppose the first thing to say about this book is that it would make a very good blog. That is partly because it is the book of a blog, or rather the book of an author who blogged things that presumably achieved something that led to this being published. Or possibly the book is an actual collection of posts from the blog. I’m not entirely sure. But I have read some of Spurious (the blog) and I enjoyed it and so I thought this book would be a good blog-book to read.

You could call it a novel,
Raül De Tena
“¿En qué momento te diste cuenta de que no llegarías a nada? Cuando vuelves al mirada hacia tu vida, ¿qué ves? ¿Cómo te sientes al saber lo que es la grandeza, y que jamás la alcanzarás? ¿Qué significa para ti que tu vida no haya servido para nada?“. “Magma” (publicado en España por Pálido Fuego) es un libro repleto de preguntas. Son preguntas que un tal W. dirige a su amigo y protagonista del libro, a quien a veces se dirige como Lars (¿alimentando la sospecha de la autobiografía?). Pero bien p ...more
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 hoveri ...more
Alejandro Ramirez
Seinfeld famously was supposed to be a show about nothing. The premise of this book is much more ambitious, it strips away any action, any anecdotes, barely any locations and is down to two characters, one of whom we only know by the criticisms of the second one. It is truly about nothing.

Is a book that few people would enjoy, so I'd be selective in who to recommend it to, sadly, perhaps the friend of mine who would most have enjoyed it is someone who is not here anymore (sadly doesn't cut it, i
So odd...and interesting...just odd.

If you've ever seen the movie Withnail and I, you know just how dysfunctional and one sided a relationship can get. This is like that, but sort of meaner. Yet still funny.

Oh, and must not forget the overwhelmingly damp flat.

So, so, odd.
Heid Zhng
What's the point of keeping this bland, monotonous, uneventful narrative going? is precisely the point of this bland, monotonous, uneventful book. Lars Iyer is so much better at curating himself in interviews than he is at writing.
Definitely my kind of book. Very funny with one of the best caustic friendships I've ever seen (what we often call "frienemies"). Reading Iyer's manifesto prior to this book, well, it all made sense. Dogma next.
Pavol Hardos
I expected more from this novel, I expected less. I expected this, but more and less.

If you ever attempted to write anything scholarly, if you spent at least a couple of years in grad school with your impostor syndrome as your best friend and confessor, then you will feel right at home in this novel and it's going to be super uncomfortable and you will like it that way.

In lieu of any grand paeans these things are bound to contain here I offer a selection of my favorite bits:

“When did you know?’,
Chad Post
So fun! Picks up speed as it goes along, and the final page is one of the best I've read in a long time. Now onto Dogma!
Kind of felt like he was trying to be Kafka and failing. Funny in parts, though.
If you: 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
What we lack in intellectual ability and real knowledge, we make up for in pathos
I feel like I should have liked this book more, and I kind of kept expecting it to wow me at some always imminent (never materializing) point. It’s got a decent sense of humour. It name-drops things I like – Maurice Blanchot, Kafka, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Bela Tarr. It’s fairly obvious that the author is a smart dude, who’s got some good ideas.


But I couldn’t stand the way it was written. The majority of t
I've learned about Lars Iyer and this book from the grate Marketplace
of Ideas podcast of Collin Marshall (if you like in depth discussions
about literature and lots of other topics - I very much recommend it:

The impression I got about this book is that it will be a
kafkaesquesly funny dialog between two (pseudo-?) philosophers, full
with references to books, music and movies that I could then later
explore. What's not to like?

Well except: the dialog is obses
I was ready not to understand any of this and to be bored but feel obliged to finish it, but no! It was fun actually. The tone was well balanced, managing the paradoxes that W. and Lars puzzle over -- simultaneously hopeless and hopeful, feeling that your life is the worst but knowing that yours is so much better than others, being happy and miserable at the same time. The damp apartment was one of my favourite parts (in spite of being super gross), and it was better executed than I was expectin ...more
Scott Gates
Whenever writers offer their ideas of what fiction should be, they usually end up describing precisely the type of writing they do.

Like Sebald saying that “fiction” (which is what his writing is considered) was a “form of imposture I find difficult to take” and that he prefers autobiographical stuff (no surprise here). He says he’s resistant to the “rules and laws” of fiction, as if analogous rules and laws--assuming they do exist for fiction--mustn’t then also be present in autobiography, whic
'Spurious' has two characters named Lars and W, both apparently working in mid-level academia. They are close friends, despite W's constant browbeating of the apparently placid Lars. Both are obsessed with the apocalypse and messianism, which they discuss endlessly, alternating between delight and despair. Their relationship reminded me more than a little of 'Withnail and I', as did the descriptions of Lars' flat. Actually, the terrible damp and mould in Lars' flat was my favourite part of the b ...more
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Lars Iyer is the author of the novel Wittgenstein Jr (2014). He has also written a trilogy of novels – Spurious, Dogma and Exodus. Iyer has also written two scholarly books on the work of Maurice Blanchot. He teaches philosophy at Newcastle University in the UK.
More about Lars Iyer...

Other Books in the Series

Spurious (3 books)
  • Dogma
  • Exodus
Wittgenstein Jr Dogma Exodus Blanchot's Vigilance: Literature, Phenomenology and the Ethical Blanchot's Communism: Art, Philosophy and the Political

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“As we look out to sea, a great shadow seems to move under the water. He can see it, says W. - 'Look: the kraken of your idiocy'. Yes, there it is, moving darkly beneath the water.” 1 likes
“We have to remember not to tell them, each of them, that they are our new leader. It would only frighten them off, W. says. No one should ever know he or she is our leader, we agree. Only we should know. And we should follow them in secret.” 0 likes
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