Books

Dept. Of Speculation

DEPT. OF SPECULATION Jenny Offill

DEPT. OF SPECULATION Jenny Offill

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Dept. of Speculation

Genre: Fiction; Author: Jenny Offill; Publisher: Knopf

Offill somehow manages to pack the sprawling story of an ordinary marriage, both the good bits and the bad — courtship, arguments, colicky baby, lice, affairs, bedbugs — into a small, poetic book. Rendered entirely in a series of staccato vignettes, Dept. of Speculation is told from the point of view of the bookish, funny wife. She quotes Dickinson, Kafka, and Yeats and likes to draw quirky historical comparisons — ancient tribal cultures, doomed Russian cosmonauts — with her domestic life as, over the years, her dreams and ambitions slowly erode. Lying down and exhausted by her screaming infant daughter, she describes a sleep-deprivation study about cats, then mutters, ”If I knew telekinesis, I would send this spoon over to feed that baby.” Yes, there’s joylessness here, but there’s also real joy. A-

Originally posted February 7 2014 — 12:00 AM EST

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