Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill, is a weird and wonderful book. At under 200 pages (my e-galley was closer to 100), it's definitely a speedy, involving read. 

The real kicker here is the writing. This story is told in short bursts of text. Like wee tiny vignettes...some changing topics from paragraph to paragraph. There are also plenty of quotes and allusions that help paint a portrait of the narrator's happiness and frustration, rage and resilience. 

Modified from Goodreads: The nameless wife and narrator of this novella once exchanged love letters with her husband, postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty inherent in life and in the strangely fluid confines of a long relationship. As they confront an array of common catastrophesa colicky baby, bedbugs, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions, she muses on the consuming experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it, as well as the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands of art.

And it's true! All that stuff is in there. It sounds far more highfalutin' than it really comes across in the novella, though. What Offill accomplishes with the short vignettes and bits of thought and emotion is a really visceral reading experience. It took me a while to get into this style. You really have to sit back and just take it in for a bit before it really starts to congeal and make sense. For some, this will be a huge deterrent, but I found it unputdownable. 

If you need a quick, quality read to get your mojo going, this might be the one!

Pub. Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday
Format: Hardcover, E-book
ISBN: 9780385350815
Source:  A rare e-book galley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


25 comments:

  1. This sounds like something I would really enjoy! The style actually sounds like it might be sort of fun.

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    1. Debi, it's super cool! I was really not sure what I was getting into, but the writing is beautiful and striking and it all comes together wonderfully.

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  2. This little book is just everywhere right now!! Sounds like a good choice when I'm searching for something short. Adding to the ever-growing list.

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    1. Dude! You need this. I know you do.

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  3. Sounds schizo! I'll move it on up the pile then!

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    1. Schizo is a good word! And a totally fast read.

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  4. I liked this one, and while I liked it from the beginning, I was soon surprised by how much story there was! I need to actually write my review now;-)

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    1. Exactly! I am always in awe of writers who can cram tons of meaning into a short book. And in this case, concise bits of writing, too!

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  5. This is so going on my reading list! I have to say I noticed this one just from the title and cover alone so I'm glad to hear it didn't disappoint!

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  6. Oooh, I love quick reads. I'm totally scatter-brained sometimes -- and bursts of story are often just what I need! This sounds like a winner, and I love the title.

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    1. I think this might be right up your alley, Meg!

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    1. Very! It was surprising and refreshing!

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  8. I totally agree that this is a perfect book to get you out of a slump or re-energize your reading - it might even make you want to read it twice!

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    1. Right on! And I actually did think of reading it twice. I fear my ARC will expire before I get a chance, though. Boo! Must buy a finished copy. :)

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  9. Well this sounds like a tasty morsel!

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  10. I need a speedy read! Been drowning in chunksters!

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  11. "You really have to sit back and just take it in for a bit before it really starts to congeal and make sense. For some, this will be a huge deterrent..." I was almost in this camp but, like I told Shannon, the last page blew me away!

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  12. One of my co-workers flipped through this today and said she thought it was going to be pretentious and boring. Then, she came back from lunch and said she was loving it! I think the style might put people off at first, but it sounds like it should be given a chance. I hope to start it this weekend.

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  13. This sounds a bit too "highfalutin'" to me, but it seems everyone is reviewing it today and everyone is loving it, so I might give it a try :)

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  14. The people ahead of me in the library queue are taking so long...sighs. I'm glad this one will be great (whenever I get my hands on it)!

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  15. "This story is told in short bursts of text. Like wee tiny vignettes...some changing topics from paragraph to paragraph."

    That sounds... annoying, honestly. But it works? I mean, would you describe this as a surreal or stream-of-consciousness style of writing, or was it more focused than that? Would I be able to enjoy it if I don't like dream sequences?

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  16. I just got this one from the library and I am really excited to read it!

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  17. I think you blog just to make me jealous of all the books you are reading. ;)

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