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Dept. of Speculation (Vintage…
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Dept. of Speculation (Vintage Contemporaries) (original 2014; edition 2014)

by Jenny Offill (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,6431278,187 (3.73)129
"Dept. of Speculation is a portrait of a marriage. It is also a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all. Jenny Offill's heroine, referred to in these pages as simply "the wife," once exchanged love letters with her husband, postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty that inheres in life and in the strangely fluid confines of a long relationship. As they confront an array of common catastrophes--a colicky baby, bedbugs, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions--the wife analyzes her predicament, invoking everything from Keats and Kafka to the thought experiments of the Stoics to the lessons of doomed Russian cosmonauts. She muses on the consuming, capacious experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it, as she confronts the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands of art. With cool precision, in language that shimmers with rage and wit and fierce longing, Jenny Offill has crafted an exquisitely suspenseful love story that has the velocity of a train hurtling through the night at top speed. Exceptionally lean and compact, Dept. of Speculation can be read in a single sitting, but there are enough bracing emotional insights in these pages to fill a much longer novel. "--… (more)
Member:pabitralenka
Title:Dept. of Speculation (Vintage Contemporaries)
Authors:Jenny Offill (Author)
Info:Vintage (2014), Edition: Reprint, 192 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (2014)

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English (124)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (1)  All languages (127)
Showing 1-5 of 124 (next | show all)
A beautifully written account of a mother and wife, who didn't necessarily want to be a mother and wife but fell into and accepted it.

When her husband cheats on her, you really feel the gut punch that she feels, and the listlessness that comes after, and the uncertainty and the difficulty of working through it, which is really the hallmark of good writing. ( )
  Elna_McIntosh | Sep 29, 2021 |
Aphoristic style, micro observations about marriage and parenting ( )
  wordloversf | Aug 14, 2021 |
This is a remarkably short book that is a very quick read. I basically read it in a day. More and more I'm finding that brevity is a virtue that by limiting their length authors are forced to really stay focused and nail their material. That is the case here. I lack the intelligence or vocabulary to really describe why, but this book fits in my mind between the books by Rachel Cusk and Sally Rooney. Like those fantastic novels, this feels very real and close to the bone. There is no artifice or cover here, our narrator is right there for us to read. And possibly judge. Every time I read these types of books I realize how little I actually want to judge, the honesty is so refreshing I let go of that often negative part of my personality. And I found myself finding so much common ground with her. This could have been written by me, "She thinks before she acts. Or more properly, she thinks instead of acts. A character flaw, not a virtue." Changing the pronouns of course. ( )
  MarkMad | Jul 14, 2021 |
Dept. of Speculation is an impressionistic meditation on marriage that hooked me from its first few sentences. I'm not sure whether it's fiction, poetry, or thinly-disguised memoir, but I am sure that it's very, very good. ( )
  CaitlinMcC | Jul 11, 2021 |
Dept. of Speculation felt like a daily journal of a woman who was in the pursuit of balancing her life as a wife, a mother, and a writer. She narrated her musings in the form of despair, happiness and struggles that transpired in her life. She took us through her journey where she experienced vicissitudes of her relationship. It is a profoundly sad read which illustrated a crippling relationship and challenges of parenthood. All the characters were beautifully portrayed.

Jenny Offill's way of throwing in quotes from renowned poets/writers/persons was the icing on the cake which facilitated connecting the dots of her narration. Honestly, I am low-key jealous of this attribute of her. I loved every bit of her narration where she mentioned about the precious moments she shared with her daughter. Especially when she mentioned something along the lines of "smell of baby hair", it made me nostalgic about the moments I shared with my siblings during their infancy. I don't know why but, the smell of babies are so different.

However, the narration started off sporadically. It was difficult to connect with the characters, her emotions, and the reasons behind them. Except some of the excerpts, Jenny's narration was sensational until the ending fell flat. I was anticipating something more towards the end of the story. I am still pondering over the following questions: Did the wife and her husband get back together? Or did they have their share of precious last moments before parting their ways? Were those precious last moments enough to rekindle the lost love between each other? What about their daughter and her happiness? Would she be able to understand the new relationship dynamics of her parents? ( )
  pabitralenka | May 19, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 124 (next | show all)
Offill’s brief book eschews obvious grandeur. It does not broadcast its accomplishments for the cosmos but tracks the personal and domestic and local, a harrowed inner space. It concentrates its mass acutely, pressing down with exquisite and painful precision, like a pencil tip on the white of the nail.
added by Lemeritus | editThe New Yorker, James Wood (Mar 24, 2014)
 
Dept. of Speculation is a riposte to the notion that domestic fiction is humdrum and unambitious. From the point of view of an unnamed American woman, it gives us the hurrahs and boos of daily life, of marriage and of parenthood, with exceptional originality, intensity and sweetness.... Dept. of Speculation is a shattered novel that stabs and sparkles at the same time. It is the kind of book that you will be quoting over and over to friends who don't quite understand, until they give in and read it too.
added by Lemeritus | editThe Guardian, John Self (Mar 14, 2014)
 
Offill is a smart writer with a canny sense of pacing; just when you want to abandon the fragmented puzzle pieces of the novel, she reveals a moment of breathtaking tenderness ... especially engaging when it describes new motherhood ... For better or worse, this is not so much a book about their marriage; it is a book about the wife’s marriage. It would be interesting to read the other story to this marriage, to know more of the husband, the father — but Offill still makes it seem as if the wife’s version of the marriage is story enough and, perhaps, the only story that matters.
added by Lemeritus | editNew York Times, Roxane Gay (Feb 7, 2014)
 
From deep within the interiors of a fictional marriage, Offill has crafted an account of matrimony and motherhood that breaks free of the all-too-limiting traditional stories of wives and mothers. There is complexity to the central partnership; Offill folds cynicism into genuine moments of love. It may be difficult to truly know what happens between two people, but Offill gets alarmingly close.
added by Lemeritus | editThe Atlantic, Koa Beck (Jan 29, 2014)
 
Jenny Offill's novel Dept. of Speculation, which weighs in at 192 pages soaking wet and includes a fair amount of white space, is extremely short for a novel. It's an unusual book not only in terms of its size, but also its form. Make no mistake, this is an experimental novel. By which I mean that the narrative isn't a series of flowing scenes that keep you reassuringly grounded in plot, but a collection of vignettes, observations and quirky details that are sometimes pulled from real life.... Offill has successfully met the challenge she seems to have given herself: write only what needs to be written, and nothing more. No excess, no flab. And do it in a series of bulletins, fortune-cookie commentary, mordant observations, lyrical phrasing. And through these often disparate and disconnected means, tell the story of the fragile nature of anyone's domestic life.
 

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Epigraph
Speculators on the universe...
are no better than madmen.

Socrates
Dedication
For Dave
First words
Antelopes have 10x vision, you said.
Quotations
But the smell of her hair. The way she clasped her hand around my fingers. This was like medicine. For once, I didn’t have to think. The animal was ascendant.
The Buddhists say there are 121 states of consciousness. Of these, only three involve misery or suffering. Most of us spend our time moving back and forth between these three.
Studies suggest that reading makes enormous demands on the neurological system. One psychiatric journal claimed that African tribes needed more sleep after being taught to read. The French were great believers in such theories. During World War II, the largest rations went to those engaged in arduous physical labor and those whose work involved reading and writing.
The reason to have a home is to keep certain people in and everyone else out. A home has a perimeter. But sometimes our perimeter was breached by neighbors, by Girl Scouts, by Jehovah’s Witnesses. I never liked to hear the doorbell ring. None of the people I liked ever turned up that way.
And that phrase—“sleeping like a baby.” Some blonde said it blithely on the subway the other day. I wanted to lie down next to her and scream for five hours in her ear.
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"Dept. of Speculation is a portrait of a marriage. It is also a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all. Jenny Offill's heroine, referred to in these pages as simply "the wife," once exchanged love letters with her husband, postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty that inheres in life and in the strangely fluid confines of a long relationship. As they confront an array of common catastrophes--a colicky baby, bedbugs, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions--the wife analyzes her predicament, invoking everything from Keats and Kafka to the thought experiments of the Stoics to the lessons of doomed Russian cosmonauts. She muses on the consuming, capacious experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it, as she confronts the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands of art. With cool precision, in language that shimmers with rage and wit and fierce longing, Jenny Offill has crafted an exquisitely suspenseful love story that has the velocity of a train hurtling through the night at top speed. Exceptionally lean and compact, Dept. of Speculation can be read in a single sitting, but there are enough bracing emotional insights in these pages to fill a much longer novel. "--

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