Like so much of the dialogue that marks time across Lars Iyer’s books, this conversation began in the pub. Of course, given the Dictaphone on the table it wasn’t really a conversation at all, but as the afternoon wore on the chat became more freewheeling. As in Iyer’s books, topics bounced from the exhilarating to the banal – from music, sex, and work, to unprintable anecdotes, unrealised projects, and work. By this point the recorder was off but we continued via email to follow up some of those incoherent, half-remembered thoughts.
Iyer’s latest novel Exodus is the finale of the ‘Lars and W.’ trilogy, which began with Spurious in 2011. The novels are based on Iyer’s life as an academic in the UK, and by now the fiction has nearly caught up with its reality – just as Iyer’s Spurious emerged from a collective blog, in Exodus Lars and W. start up their own blog which collapses under the weight of Lars’s continuous updates. (We might hope for a future trilogy in which ‘Lars’ writes Spurious, Dogma and Exodus all over again.) Iyer has said that Exodus is his attempt at a ‘big book, a comic Book of Revelations’, and religiosity and end-times abound – everything from Vedic scripture to Rastafarian eschatology – as the lecturer-heroes embark on their own uncertain exodus into the desert of neoliberal Britain.
In 2011, The White Review published Iyer’s ‘Nude in Your Hot Tub, Facing the Abyss’, a manifesto against literature and against manifestos. Its bleakly funny provocation reminded me of a scene from the Simpsons – a call to ‘prove me wrong kids … prove me wrong’.
At the same time, in calling for a literature that addresses its own marginality, it seemed hopeful. A recurring motif in Iyer’s work is to think against a doomed situation from within – the suburbs, Britain, the apocalypse – and his books suggest a similar escape, a way out of literature through literature. It’s true that Iyer’s fiction can be glossed pretty quickly – following some of the best traditions of twentieth century art, not a lot happens – but the banal surface belies an extraordinary depth and richness. And if such things are already well known to readers familiar with Iyer’s work, they bear repeating: in the spirit of blind-drunk conviction, banging the tabletop, telling you just read the books!,over and over.