I’m a terrible influence on W., everyone says that. Why does he hang out with me? What’s in it for him? The great and the good are shaking their heads. Sometimes W. goes back to the high table and explains himself. I am something to explain, W. says. He has to account for me to everyone. Why is that?
I don’t feel I have to account for myself, W. says, that’s what it is. I’ve no real sense of shame. It must be something to do with my Hinduism, W. muses. —‘You’re an ancient people, but an innocent one, unburdened by shame’, W. says. On the other hand, it could be simply due to my stupidity. I’m freer than him, W. acknowledges, but more stupid. It’s an innocent kind of stupidity, but it’s stupidity nonetheless.
It’s been my great role in his life, W. says, helping him escape the high table. He’s down among the low tables now, he says, in the chimps’ enclosure.
W. remembers when I was up and coming, he tells me. He remembers the questions I used to ask, and how they would resound beneath the vaulted ceilings. —‘You seemed so intelligent then’, he says. I shrug. ‘But when any of us read your work . . .’, he says, without finishing the sentence.
So was he ever up and coming?, I ask W. He was, he remembers. That was a golden age. Everyone looked up to him. Everything was expected of him! Each morning, he got up and read and took notes until he went to bed. He had a desk and a bed in his room, and his books and his notebooks, but nothing else. He didn’t go out, didn’t drink, but just read and took notes, day after day. What went wrong? —‘Drinking’, he says. ‘I drank too much, I smoked too much’. Why did he drink? —‘The sense of the apocalypse’, W. says. ‘That it was all for nothing’.
Excerpted from Spurious
by Lars Iyer. Copyright © 2011 by Lars Iyer.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Melville House.