Dept. of Speculation

Dept. of Speculation

Book - 2014
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Dept. of Speculation is a portrait of a marriage. It is also a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all.

Jenny Offill's heroine, referred to in these pages as simply "the wife," once exchanged love letters with her husband postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty that inheres in life and in the strangely fluid confines of a long relationship. As they confront an array of common catastrophes--a colicky baby, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions--the wife analyzes her predicament, invoking everything from Keats and Kafka to the thought experiments of the Stoics to the lessons of doomed Russian cosmonauts. She muses on the consuming, capacious experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it as she confronts the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands of art.

With cool precision, in language that shimmers with rage and wit and fierce longing, Jenny Offill has crafted an exquisitely suspenseful love story that has the velocity of a train hurtling through the night at top speed. Exceptionally lean and compact, Dept. of Speculation is a novel to be devoured in a single sitting, though its bracing emotional insights and piercing meditations on despair and love will linger long after the last page.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, c2014.
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9780385350815
Characteristics: 179 p.
Alternative Title: Department of speculation


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May 28, 2017

Really interesting format; honest and bold writing. Be patient, it took until half way through to connect.

May 21, 2017

The style it is written takes a little getting use to but also made it more of a quick read which is good because it is really a summary of ones life and the missed oppertunities or paths taken for whatever reasons and some philosphoies that go with that.
I found some of the sayings or connections interesting and I could resonate, we all have our thoughts and our life stories. Not sure this is memorable but a change from the usual style a book is written. Still found it a good little read for the genre that is it, I wasn't expecting any twists or suspense or anything, more a book you can just relate to in general and ponder your life and reasonings.

DBRL_IdaF Jan 09, 2017

Everyone's story is interesting from the inside, if told correctly, even if it's the same old story. Woman decides to live the life of an art monster, eschewing domestic responsibilities. Woman falls in love, gets married, has child. Opts for steady paycheck. For a while there are bedbugs. Then lice. Has The Most Wonderful Husband, until he dallies with someone else. Woman questions everything. Kind of sort of thinks again about becoming art monster.

Intriguing to me is the shifting narration. When things are wonderful, it's first person. When things are at their most painful for the wife, it's third person, a distancing. During the very worst times, the narrator even critiques the narrative, as if it's a story written by one of her students. Interspersed in the narrative are quotes from philosophers and artists.

AL_ANDREW Aug 02, 2016

Quick, well-written, scattered take on modern marriage. Not a downer or an upper, but really enjoyed the incoherent (at times) narration as it reflected the uncertainty faced by the protagonist.

Jun 26, 2016

This story of a marriage of nameless people is told in fragmentary paragraphs. It is very slight and all technique.

Jun 25, 2016

It took me a little while to get into the style but then I found it utterly captivating. Beautifully done. Very engaging.

multcolib_karene Jan 27, 2016

A lovely little book. It's told in snippets that are simply fascinating.

Cynthia_N Sep 25, 2015

A neat little story of a marriage. It's one of those books that you read and then one little passage has a huge impact on you.

"I never liked to hear the doorbell ring. None of the people I liked ever turned up that way."

"Three things no one has ever said about me:
You make it look so easy.
You are very mysterious.
You need to take yourself more seriously."

Jun 22, 2015

Some entertaining sentences, a quick read.

forbesrachel May 17, 2015

Dept. of Speculation is comprised of blocks of sentences which, like thoughts, are short and fleeting. By themselves they can seem random, but together they paint a picture of an unnamed "wife", slowly revealing her everyman-type story. As she reflects on her life, her time with her husband, and her parental struggles with, and adoration for her daughter, we learn that she is fairly solitary, and slightly pessimistic, but well-educated and resilient too. Interesting scientific and historical facts, nuggets of philosophical and religious wisdom, quotes from renowned writers, and proverbs, constantly pop up in her head. The cracks in her marriage are almost imperceptible at first, but when it breaks, the wife's first person narrative immediately shifts to a third person account, as if she has become disassociated from herself. Anyone who has gone through something similar can relate to this detached feeling. When the numbness dissipates though, the emotions of betrayal, anger, and sorrow spill out. This is not your typical novel, the author eschews standard conventions for a more personal account, raw with emotion and the point of view of this woman. It makes us think, and it makes us feel, for there are good and bad moments, and even times when we must trudge on to get back to a satisfactory state. The story offers no firm answers to life or its problems, this is just how one woman decided to face her personal and marital issues. The wife may not be the ideal role model, but she is a realistic one.

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Jul 30, 2015

Stream of consciousness story that is well written and a quick read. A mother and wife contemplates her life and current situation.

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