An occasional roundup of noteworthy reviews from other sources.
John Self reviews Lars Iyer’s Spurious, a short novel with debts to Beckett, Bernhard, and Kafka about two friends, Lars and W., and their absurd/profound talk: “The conversations are short but feel like excerpts from one never-ending exchange, like arcs cut from a circle. . . . what Lars and W. represent is an endless intellectual curiosity, on everything from messianism to Peter Andre (though the pop cultural references for me were the least funny part of the book). Such interest in things can only ever be bright-eyed and vigorous, and funny even when it’s horrible.” . . . John McWhorter offers a provocative take on a new book about the war against drugs and race in America. . . . In the first of a two-part review, Marcia Angell discusses three books and the “raging epidemic of mental illness [in America], at least as judged by the increase in the numbers treated for it.” . . . Barbara Ehrenreich considers several books about man’s place on the food chain. . . . Laura Miller praises William Deresiewicz’s “delightful and enlightening” new book about Jane Austen, but also critiques a view of reading: “Does reading great literature make you a better person? I’ve not seen much evidence for this common belief. Some of the best-read people I know are thoroughgoing jerks, and some of the kindest and noblest verge on the illiterate — which is admittedly an anecdotal argument, but then, when it comes to this topic, what isn’t?”