I read Jenny Offill’s slim, experimental novel Dept. of Speculation in one fell swoop. Immediately upon finishing, I read it again, and admired and enjoyed it even more.

The novel is written (mostly) from the perspective of a woman who is sometimes “I”, “she,” or “the wife” depending on how difficult or painful the memory is. It’s written in tiny bite-size morsels, so many of which are perfectly condensed gems of truth that my fingers twitched to underline them. I could probably simply underline the whole book.

I borrowed it from the library, though, so I restrained myself. But when (not if) I get my own copy of this book, I can’t guarantee I won’t, even though my husband G. Grod despises marking up books. But I am so unabashedly in love with some of the sentences in this book that I want to highlight them, quote them, put them up on a pedestal. This is the book I keep mentioning to people, made my husband read before I returned it, keep quoting from, like this:

But now it seems possible that the truth about getting older is that there are fewer and fewer things to make fun of until finally there is nothing you are sure you will never be.

I read this one aloud to my husband:

Also she signed away the right to self-destruct years ago. The fine print on the birth certificate, her friends call it.

And this one too:

Advice for wives circa 1896: The indiscriminate reading of novels is one of the most injurious habits to which a married woman can be subject. Besides the false views of human nature it will impart … it produces an indifference to the performance of domestic duties, and contempt for ordinary realities.

I could go on, but then I’d be quoting the whole book, and you should just go out and read it. Caution, though. It is weird. This is not a conventional book or easy read though you can finish in under two hours. The little bits, though, add up to a beautiful, if sometimes painful and sad, whole. I highly recommend it.

(So imagine my disappointment when Victor LaValle, an author I admire, and whose Big Machine is one of my all-time favorite Tournament of Books discoveries, picked another book over Dept. of Speculation in today’s match. Noooooo! All these books I didn’t care for win, and then the first book that comes up that I love goes down? So sad.)

2 Responses to “DEPT. OF SPECULATION by Jenny Offill”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    I have it out of the library and am planning to start today. You have piqued my interest.

  2. carolyn Says:

    I loved it. I wanted to stay in her head forever.