Review: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill of Speculation by Jenny Offill (Knopf, 2014, 192 pages)

I read this brief-but-intense book before bed one night and the following morning. I hadn't read a book that fast in a long time, and considering when I was reading it, I had the nagging feeling that I had just dreamed it. 

However. This is not the kind of novel you'll forget quickly. Offill gives us an unnamed female narrator sorting through a life filled with the difficulties of child-rearing, marriage-maintenance, and writer's block.
Have you ever read (or skimmed- what I did!) Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project? Offill's novel has that fragmentary feel that resolves itself into a beautiful whole. We can be reading a paragraph-long revery about the narrator's conflicted feelings toward her cheating husband and then suddenly we're reading scraps of information collected from her research for a book on Russian cosmonauts (which she is ghost-writing). One page is simply filled with the refraid "soscaredsoscared." 

This seeming jumble of thoughts, emotions, desires, and regrets is actually a carefully-constructed web that when looked at in a certain light, resembles a flesh-and-blood woman.

Did this book make me want to read other things Offill has written. That would be a big ol' YES.

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