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(Spurious #1)

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  673 ratings  ·  93 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
Paperback, 188 pages
Published January 25th 2011 by Melville House
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Average rating 3.54  · 
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 ·  673 ratings  ·  93 reviews

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Jan 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I’m a big fan of bringing the new year in with a kiss. It’s a tradition I’ve enjoyed with my dear wife, family and friends (with my old neighbor, Mrs. Sundquist, as the exception after she’d been hitting the pickled eel jar). I can also make KISS a mnemonic to apply here – a reminder to Keep It Short, Steve. (My original version was KISSSSSSSS for “Keep It Short, Spiel-Spewing Soapbox-Spouting Stupor-Stretching Stupidass,” but that would be silly and self-controverting.) Anyway, I hope to start ...more
Oct 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 23, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Apr 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Dec 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
We are Brod and Brod, we agree, and neither of us is Kafka.

If this quote means nothing to you, this might not be the book for you. I am by no means an expert on Kafka, but I have a feeling Max Brod is hard done by in this quote and other references to him in the book. But I’ll leave that for someone who knows what they are talking about.

The two “heroes” of this book are W. and the narrator who happens to be called Lars, like the author. Much of the book is W. finding increasingly inventive ways
Andrea Paterson
Mar 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Paul Fulcher
Mar 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
'Compare our friendship', says W., 'to that of Levinas and Blanchot.' Of their correspondence, only a handful of letter survive. Of ours, which take the form of obscenities and drawings of cocks exchanged on Microsoft Messenger, everything survives, although it shouldn't.

Lars Iyer’s Spurious was his debut novel and the first in a trilogy with Dogma and Exodus that, in practice, form one novel. The final volume Exodus was shortlisted in 2013 for the inaugural version of the excellent Goldsmiths
Jason Pettus
Jan 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
(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
Justin Evans
Feb 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Jun 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 14, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Cheryl Anne Gardner
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 09, 2013 rated it liked it
" '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."

Paul Holland
Aug 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, box-002
I might've given this 5 stars but the characters are so annoying that I couldn't bring myself to encourage them. It's a testament to Lars Iyer that his creations are so rotund in their repulsiveness. You can have no sympathy for them. It's as if two Withnails have lost their "I"s, found each other and somehow become academics. ...more
Mar 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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! ...more
Scott Gates
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Sarah Cavar
May 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
Perhaps 3.5. It’s an odd, funny little book and I’m not sure how or if I should review it.
Pavol Hardos
Jan 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
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?’,
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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,
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
Thus by the hand of Lars a narrative mirror- of dateless fragments titled with the warmth of an editorial rejection- of their (i.e. the simian duo of W. and Lars) learned angst, of their riven quests, of their parodic aping of humanness at once reflected. The title, "Spurious," in this regard captures too in its anxious adjectivity the want of Lars and W. for that transformative connection to noun-ness, to completion, to Being. Yes, this is their "way out": to be morphed via apocalyptic howl and ...more
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
As I began to read this book I could see it was going to be one of those love-it-or-loathe-it books and I can see from the reviews already posted that I was right. I fall into the love-it camp although I could’ve loved it more. I chose it because it was recommended to people who appreciated Beckett; I can tick that box and I agree, if you appreciate the kind of (seemingly) inane banter that takes place between the likes of Didi and Gogo (although this pair veers more towards the Hamm/Clov end of ...more
Lee Razer
Feb 23, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Aug 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
'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
May 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2013
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
Aug 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
A fugue on a few good ideas, including Kafka and Brod, Calculus, the Talmud, and a perpetual (almost comic) rant about failure. The narrator and the character W are linked on literally every page, which makes me wonder if they were intended to be halves of the same (perhaps schizophrenic) person.
Heid Zhng
Jan 08, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
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. ...more
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Feb 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Kind of felt like he was trying to be Kafka and failing. Funny in parts, though.
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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.

Other books in the series

Spurious (3 books)
  • Dogma
  • Exodus

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  Melissa Albert burst onto the YA scene (and catapulted into readers' hearts) with her 2018 debut The Hazel Wood. This darkly fantastical...
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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.” 2 likes
“Her şey neden ters gitmeye başladı?” diye düşüncelere dalıyor. Cevabı ikimiz de biliyoruz: Edebiyat yüzünden! Ah keşke matematikten anlasaydık! Keşke matematiğe bassaydı kafamız!
W.’nin matematik kitapları var, her sene okumaya çalışıyor onları. “Diferansiyel denklemleri hiç yapamıyorum,” diyor. Yunanca gibi. Yunancayı da her sene öğrenmeye çalışıyor ama haber kipinin geniş zamanında takılıp kalıyor. “Geniş zaman hep yeniyor beni.” Matematiğe yatkın tanıdıklarımızın isimlerini sıralayıp iç geçiriyoruz. “Onların bir ederi var,” diyor W., “bizim yok halbuki.”
“Ama bizim de neşemiz var,” diyor sonra. “Özünde neşeli insanlarız.” Dediklerine katılıyorum. Çok azla yetinebiliyoruz, mutlu olmak için çok şeye ihtiyacımız yok. Aptallar mutludur, bunda hemfikiriz. Budalaca memnunuz halimizden. “Galiba bana kazandırdığın tek şey bu” diyor W., “bu budalalık.”

Sınırlarımızı bildik ikimiz de hep, bu konuda hemfikiriz. Ama bu sınırları bilmek onları kabullenmekten çok farklı bir şey. Doğrusunu isterseniz bütün hayat hikayemiz sınırlarımızı kabullenmememiz ve pencereye toslayıp duran güveler gibi bu sınırlara çarpa çarpa kendimizi harap etmemizden ibaret.

Sınırlarımız bizi büyülüyor evet. En baştan beri bu sınırları hedef aldık kendimize; muhalefetimiz bizden herhangi bir beklentisi olan bir dünyaya değil, kendi beklentilerimize.

Ne yapabileceğimizi düşünüyorduk acaba? Nereden gelmişti bu vahşice umut? Bizimkinin saf bir budalalık hali olduğuna karar veriyoruz. Tamam, budalalıklarının derinliğini tam olarak kavrayamayan budalalarız biz. Budalalığın mistikleri denebilir bize; cehalet bulutlarının içinde kaybolmuş mistik budalalarız.

Budalalık, ortak noktamız bu. Arkadaşlığımız sınırlarımız üstüne kurulu ve bu temelden çok uzaklaşmıyor.
W. süpermarketten eve yürürken, "Neşe doluyuz," diyor, "bizi kurtaran bu." Neden başarısızlıklarımızı bunca eğlenceli buluyoruz? Ama gerçekten kurtarıyor bizi neşemiz; dünyaya hediyemiz bu. Çok azla memnun olabiliyoruz: Bize bir bakın, elimizde torbalar, içinde donmuş bir tavuk, biraz yeşillik, biraz baharat, güneşin altında eve yürüyoruz. Kahkaha bir yetenektir, diyorum. "Budalalık," diyor W., "bir yetenektir.”
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