by Lars Iyer
Spurious, Lars Iyer's first novel, introduced us to Lars and W, a comic pair of English academics, and their perpetual bickering. In Dogma, the second book of a planned trilogy, the duo return to debate subjects as diverse as Kafka, power naps and Facebook.
The first part of the book sees Lars and W travel to America, a trip that signals much of what is to come. The cultural differences create opportunities for some farcically funny episodes, such as W's exasperation at being unable to find his favourite Plymouth Gin in a liquor store in the Deep South. Taking America as a setting also allows Iyer to introduce the central theme of this digressive novel - impending apocalypse in the wake of the end of religion and capitalism, as a result of religious capitalism or capitalist religion.
This makes the book seem particularly timely in the midst of economic meltdown. Lars and W trace a failure of culture - a collapse of religious and political models - and form Dogma, a set of rules to abide by to imbue their lives with meaning. All the while the apocalyptic signs continue with a millennial infestation of rats and bluebottles in Lars's flat.
But it's the masterful absurd humour that stands out most in this book, characterised by rapid shifts from the profound to the preposterous. In one of many brilliant set pieces the pair move from musing on the symbolic destructive power of the Mississippi to taking timed photos of themselves riding each other like horses on its bank. Despite their philosophical questioning Lars and W are like the rest of us: just as doomed, just as ridiculous.
Publisher: Melville House