Friday, February 20, 2015


Dept of Speculation, Jenny Offill, Alfred A Knopf, 2014, 160 pp

I am as conflicted about this book as Jenny Offill seems to be about life. No, this is a novel so the main character, only called "the wife," is a fictional character who is conflicted about her life as a writer, a wife, a mother. But Jenny Offill must have experienced being conflicted because she writes about it so well.

In short sentences and short chapters she leaps from the universal to the individual. She throws in facts (antelope have 10X vision) and quotes from writers, friends, and even a tattoo. I started this book one day because it was short and on the Tournament of Books list and I was weary of long books as well as woefully under read as far as the TOB list goes. 

But every short chapter was rich and almost indigestible, so I could not read much in a day.

On page 8 the wife says, "My plan was to never get married. I was going to be an art monster instead. Women almost never become art monsters because art monsters only concern themselves with art, never mundane things." But she did fall in love with people and finally she married.

That was hard enough but then they had a baby. And then and then. So the book is called a "portrait of a marriage" in the promo. It could as easily be called a portrait of an artist or a portrait of a woman.

It is written with great artistry. It is a portrait in words. It is a poem in free verse.

I was conflicted because Jenny Offill came so close to what has been difficult and wondrous and true in my life.

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