Publishers Weekly, not online, Jan 20th.
Two friends drink, walk in the English countryside, and talk (and talk and talk) in Iyer's playfully cerebral debut. The action--what there is of it--revolves around an unnamed Hindu narrator and his frenemy, a mopey professor known as W., who harbors a deep insecurity, is contemptuous of the narrator, and loves Kafka. The narrator, meanwhile, lives in a rotting home that's being taken over by a creeping fungus and suffers W.'s constant tongue lashings with a resigned cheeriness as the pair muse, debate, ponder, and talk endlessly about their places in the world. Iyer finds ways to weave in contemporary cultural artifacts, from film director Bela Tarr and rock group Godspeed You Black Emperor to a range of influential European intellectuals, though it's not clear whether the narrator and W. are more yin and yang or Abbott and Costello. It's a love it or hate it book: repetitive, too much in its own head, and self-satisfied, yes; but also piquant, often hilarious, and gutsy.