Melissa Seley speaks with author Lars Iyer about his trilogy of novels, Spurious, Dogma, and the forthcoming Exodus.
In England, where nearly all philosophy departments adhere to the pre-Kantian analytic method, Lars Iyer is a lecturer in one of the last robust post-Kantian philosophy strongholds at the University of Newcastle on Tyne. When Iyer began blogging about his philosophical musings and end-times despair, a fictional dialogue between two failed philosophy lecturers—“Lars” and his caustic counterpart “W.”—emerged. What ensued, as Lars’s and W.’s banter took on a life of its own, is a Beckettsian mumblecore-meets-Larry David satire trilogy composed of the novels Spurious (2010), Dogma (2012) and next year’s Exodus.
MS You’ve said that literature is posthumous. What do you mean?
LI Sometimes, it is necessary say stupid things—to speak out from an overwhelming feeling. For some time, I have felt that what has been called literature for a couple of centuries is over: that the conditions in which it thrived, and which are necessary for its survival, have disappeared. Perhaps this is plain wrong—more books are being published than ever, and in more parts of the world. Perhaps my claim reflects a crisis of Western culture, a crisis of masculinity, a crisis of a privileged “race.” Perhaps amazing new literary hybrids will appear, the like of which we can only dream of. Perhaps a new chapter of literature, capital L, is about to begin . . . . I do not have the strength to believe in these things. I wish that I did.
Jo Ann Beard’s long-awaited follow-up and debut novel In Zanesville excavates the emotional terrain of Nowheresville teendom with stunning wit, cutthroat clarity and a profound empathy for the rigors of adolescence.
When it was published in 1997, Jo Ann Beard’s debut essay collection The Boys of My Youth indelibly altered the nonfiction landscape, earning her a Whiting Award and cult status as one of the new pioneers of creative nonfiction. Like Junot Diaz’s Drown on the fiction side of the ‘90s, Beard’s autobiographical sketches comprised a darkly comic and jarringly lucid collage of a life as intimately mundane as it is universally terror-stricken. Now, a decade later, Beard’s long-awaited follow-up and debut novel, In Zanesville, excavates the emotional terrain of Nowheresville teendom with stunning wit, cutthroat clarity, and a profound empathy for the rigors of adolescence. Over draft beers and bad curry fries at a dim, breezy Irish pub on New York’s Upper West Side, we examined the role of visual memory in fiction and nonfiction alike and considered the surrealistic impulses involved with Beard’s self-proclaimed “superpower”: the ability to mine the subconscious of the Every Girl.
Melissa Seley In what ways did your process change from writing shorter nonfiction essays to approaching a fictional novel?
Jo Ann Beard Writing fiction really freed me up. The level of worry and stewing over fact—I was free from that. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, underneath the surface it’s always the same thing: it’s just you and your imagination. I like that.