Dept. of Speculation (Vintage Contemporaries)

Dept. of Speculation (Vintage Contemporaries)

Jenny Offill

Language: English

Pages: 192

ISBN: 0345806875

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A Best Book of the Year: The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star Tribune,, Electric Literature, Buzzfeed

In the beginning, it was easy to imagine their future. They were young and giddy, sure of themselves and of their love for each other. “Dept. of Speculation” was their code name for all the thrilling uncertainties that lay ahead. Then they got married, had a child and navigated the familiar calamities of family life—a colicky baby, a faltering relationship, stalled ambitions.
         When their marriage reaches a sudden breaking point, the wife tries to retrace the steps that have led them to this place, invoking everything from Kafka to the Stoics to doomed Russian cosmonauts as she analyzes what is lost and what remains. In language that shimmers with rage and longing and wit, Offill has created a brilliantly suspenseful love story—a novel to read in one sitting, even as its piercing meditations linger long after the last page.


















the Stoics. If you are tired of everything you possess, imagine that you have lost all these things. 16 It is possible that I am getting too cranky and old to teach. Here I am ranting in the margins about definite vs. indefinite articles, about POV. Think about authorial distance! Who is speaking here? My friend who teaches writing sometimes flips out when she is grading stories and types the same thing over and over again. WHERE ARE WE IN TIME AND SPACE? WHERE ARE WE IN TIME AND

with the terrible hunted eyes of the married people. Did everyone always look this way but she is just now seeing it? Case in point: The wife runs into C at a party, a brilliant woman married to a brilliant man. She has just had a show at a major gallery. Her husband is in the MoMA permanent collection. Brilliant, brilliant. But C does not talk to the wife about brilliant things. She talks about her dissembling contractor, about spa treatments, about waiting lists for private kindergarten.

idea that the girl might write her a letter. But, no, no, of course, there is nothing. The wife sits in the backyard with binoculars. She is trying to learn about the birds. She has seen robins and sparrows and wrens. A green-throated hummingbird. She wants to know the name of the black bird with the red wings. She looks it up. It is a red-winged blackbird. Dear Girl, She writes the philosopher a letter instead. He has gone to live in the Sonoran Desert. He met a poet there who tends sixty

was a block from our apartment. It was exactly the distance I could make in the freezing cold, carrying the baby in my arms. Also the farthest distance I could sprint if she started screaming again and I had to go home. These calculations were important because she screamed a lot in those days. Enough that our neighbors averted their eyes when they saw us, enough that it felt like a car alarm was perpetually going off in my head. After you left for work, I would stare at the door as if it might

the drain. When I pull it back out, my hand is scummed with grease. My husband clears the table. Bits of meat cling to the plates, a soggy napkin floats in gravy. In India, they say, there are men who eat only air. Someone has given my daughter a doctor’s kit. Carefully, she takes her own temperature, places the pressure cuff around her arm. Then she takes the cuff off and examines it. “Would you like to be a doctor when you grow up?” I ask her. She looks at me oddly. “I’m already a doctor,”

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