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Dept. of Speculation

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  27,282 Ratings  ·  4,290 Reviews
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
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Hardcover, 179 pages
Published January 28th 2014 by Knopf
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Lara To me, and this is very much a quick reaction as well having only just finished reading it less than 10 minutes ago, but I think that the narration…moreTo me, and this is very much a quick reaction as well having only just finished reading it less than 10 minutes ago, but I think that the narration changes from first to third person at the point where she can't think of the situation as happening to her - it feels more like she is telling someone else's story than her own - and returns to the first person when she becomes more comfortable with the way that the situation has played out its course and has come to terms with what has happened better.(less)
Lizzie I loved this book. I borrowed it from the public library, but will buy it when I want to read it again. I loved Offill's style, the raw story, the…moreI loved this book. I borrowed it from the public library, but will buy it when I want to read it again. I loved Offill's style, the raw story, the distance with unnamed characters... I haven't felt so confident recommending a fictional novel I've read to date. (less)

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Cameron
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I underlined basically the entire novel.
Michael May
Oct 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed

I read basically the entire novel. [1]

I tried to read it in a single sitting, but my wife kept yelling at me. [2]

I kept getting lost in the index. [3]

It's pithy. Very pithy. Maybe too damn pithy. [4]

It's a novel about a writer who wants to write a novel. [5]

It is very much about how it feels to have bedbugs. [6]

It's as compact and mysterious as a charred heel bone. [7]

It's as if Roz Chast slowly lost her sense of humor. [8]

If your average book is a sandwich, this is a panini maker. [9]

--Notes--

1
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Emma Sea
6 stars.

I'm doing my inarticulate book-clutching thing.
s.penkevich
If you are tired of everything you possess, imagine that you have lost all these things.

John Berryman once wrote ‘let all flowers wither like a party.’ Nothing lasts, even the things we love most and nurture and care for must pass, but this is not cause for sadness but merely a reason to look into each moment and let ourselves feel the emotion coursing through them. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, writer of the marvelous children’s book (and staple of my daughter’s bedtime routine) Spark
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Eve
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, read-2015
Indulging in my love of audio books has become more challenging since I quit my job, and no longer have a two and a half hour commute to get lost in a dreamy book. I've taken to having a special ME day once a week. The ritual revolves around my complicated and needy hair. The process of pre-shampooing, washing, deep conditioning, detangling, and finally braiding my hair into tiny segments occupies about 3-4 hours sometimes. I used to put it off until I absolutely had a knotted mess on my hands. ...more
Katie
Aug 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: published-2014
Essentially, Offill carries out a kind of emotional autopsy on a young woman trying to divide her energies between bringing up a young child and keeping a husband happy without sacrificing her commitment to succeeding as a writer.

The original format of this novel – it’s written as a kind of literary scrapbook of musings, quotes and insights - reminded me at times of Fellini’s brilliant film about the fount of inspiration, 8 . Like the film director in Fellini’s film, Offill’s writer is bereft o
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Greg
Jan 05, 2014 rated it liked it
“She thinks before she acts. Or more properly she thinks instead of acts. A character flaw not a virtue.”

Dept. Of Speculation is a short novel of a marriage. It's told in 46 chapters composed of short paragraphs and almost aphoristic lines and quotes in 160 compact pages. The narrator, the Wife, goes from being a young woman who considers being an Art Monster, a person who lives solely for the creation of their art, to a wife and a mother. It's set mostly in Brooklyn, but that shouldn't be held
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christa
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
True confession: I will probably never press a copy of Jenny Offill’s “Dept. of Speculation” into anyone’s hot little hands. It doesn’t matter anyway. The thing landed on, like, every Best Of 2014 list in the universe, probably even half-assedly scribbled onto fast food napkins. But here’s the thing: I didn’t just love this book, I fucking loved it. I felt passionate and heart-beaty about it. I touched words on pages and sighed like they were images in a yearbook or whatever. I turned my copy in ...more
·Karen·
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who is sick of hearing about "Elena Ferrante"

There are blowsy baroque behemoths that spill the entire contents of the fridge onto your reading table (and let you do the cooking, and the clearing up afterwards too sometimes), and then there are the delicate offerings, the distilled essence from the alembic, an extract that carries, within a tiny drop, sweetness, tartness, acidity, all at once. Potent. Searing. Jewel-like droplets that set the mouth ablaze and the mind reeling.

This is sensational.

Offill dispenses with all the conventional tr
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Tim
Apr 23, 2014 added it
When I first pulled a copy of Renata Adler's Pitch Dark off the dollar remainder shelves at the Strand sometime in the early 90s, I was intrigued, mystified. ¿Que es esto? I was slaloming between the poles of philosophy and literature at the time and trying to get them to merge in some elegant way or at least not crash into a tree. I was grabbed there on 12th Street by how she alluded to Wittgenstein and Nabokov back-to-back, insisting that they belonged together, not to mention Scheherazade and ...more
Carol
Mar 04, 2014 rated it did not like it

The plot depiction is disjointed and resembles the ramblings of a bi-polar patient off his/her meds. Typically it sounds like the ramblings of a person in couples' therapy when only one partner shows up. I would like to talk about the redeeming graces of this novelette, but I could find none, It was like picking up someone's private daily journal -- and finding that it's really only meaningful to the person writing it. Unfortunately, this material just did not engage me. (The text that explains
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Stephen
Sep 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
The subject of this book is the same as Elena Ferrante's The Days of Abandonment - the husband strays - yet the writing couldn't have been handled more differently.

To write like Ferrante you need a grasp of literature.
To write like Offill you need an American education and access to the internet.

Ferrante wears her education lightly - there are little, if any references to great writers.
Offill doesn't let you forget who she's in touch with.

Offill talks a lot about art.
Ferrante asks you to judge
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Roger Brunyate
Jun 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ten Reasons Why You Should Read This Extraordinary Book

10. Because it has one of the coolest back-cover endorsements (by Michael Cunningham) you will ever see.

9. Because by reading you will challenge this 1896 advice to wives, quoted in the book:
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
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Hugh
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017, modern-lit
This is an intriguing book, but quite a difficult one to assess and review. At first it seemed like an almost random stream of disconnected short paragraphs, but it soon becomes clear that the book has a core narrative that tells what would otherwise be a fairly humdrum and universal story of a failing marriage. The plot is the least important thing in this book - it is full of memorable observations and thoughts on a wide variety of subjects.

It falls loosely into two halves - the first is told
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Paul Bryant
Sep 05, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
There are so many novels which are really memoirs but are given to us as novels because memoirs are like “oh, what makes you think your life is so interesting I might want to read about it?” and novels are “yay! A new novel!”

I will bet one thousand of my British pounds



that Jenny Offill really did have a bug infestation in her apartment and really did have a daughter who broke both her wrists. (Novels I read recently which are really also memoirs are : A Question of Upbringing, The Wallcreeper, T
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Melanie
Jun 25, 2013 rated it liked it
My rating oscillates between 3 and 4 stars.
Thin slices of married life as viewed through a microscope, agitated cells of a wife's emotional life swirling on the page. A mix of memories and inner thoughts, striking moments and philosophical quotes, the whole should have risen as a symphony yet it didn't quite do that in the end for me. The book felt a little bit rushed and disjointed and coming apart at the seams.
Jenny Offill jumped ahead through the years a little abruptly at times and I often
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LeeAnne
May 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing


This short story reminds me of the first big hill on a wooden roller coaster. You know how the train jolts as it starts to move? Then you hear that ominous,“click-click-clack... click-click -clack” as the chain slowly pulls the cars up the steep hill. The suspense builds. Half way through this book, be prepared for a hard, fast, drop, straight down. The story accelerates until your stomach flies up into your throat. Before you know it, it is all over and you're left stunned and dazed.

The main c
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Barry Pierce
Very nice, subtle novel. The prose is clear, stripped-back and easy to follow, it's very incidental and smooth. I don't know, reading this novel feels like that moment when you slip into a hot bath and suddenly everything is alright. The words swash around you with their calming violence, constantly bobbling and trickling along with their nonchalant rhythm. This is a wonderful piece. I'm saddend that more people haven't read this. I truly recommend it.
Elyse
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wrote a review a couple of years ago...
sorry --not sure where it is
Might show up Mariah!!
Janet
I found myself gasping at the sheer beauty and conciseness of Offill's sentences. This book can be devoured in two hours, or you can languish in it over many sittings (or both). It's about love and loneliness and grief and joy and fidelity and beauty and depression and mania and motherhood and writing. The shifting points of view were subtle yet profound, and, despite the darkness and sadness of the story, when I closed the book, I was left more alert and attentive, more alive. Highly recommende ...more
Mariah
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well this book broke me into pieces. I just felt super connected to the main character and even though I am not married and I don't have any children I was still able to put myself in that characters shoes. The author did a great job at this.

This was a fast, short, easy read that was super interesting and made you think and feel greatly!
Michael Ferro
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jenny Offill's DEPT. OF SPECULATION is a smorgasbord of delightfully mindful appetizers that all come together as one infinitely satisfying meal. At times hilarious, other times sad, though sometimes both, this slim novel defies much of the trope stylings of a modern doomed marriage story, instead providing the reader with an endless supply of little food for thought nuggets of wisdom and whimsey mixed among the narrative of a marriage crumbling before our eyes.

Offill has weaved plenty of specu
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Ben Loory
Mar 05, 2015 rated it liked it
the writing is excellent, but the story (marriage/baby/infidelity/unpleasantness) just makes me wanna open myself with a sword
Cher
Feb 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned-dnf
1 star - I really hated it.

DNF'd at 10% (a whopping 15 minutes of reading, maybe). Turns out it is a collection of random gibberish. Here are two excerpts that speak for themselves:

To live in a city is to be forever flinching. The Buddhists say there are 121 states of consciousness. Of these, only three involve misery or suffering. Most of us spend our time moving back and forth between these three.
Blue jays spend every Friday with the devil, the old lady at the park told me.
“You need to get o
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Tyler Goodson
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs, book-club, six-stars
This novel is some kind of magic trick. I don't know how else to explain how this envelope of a book, like a genie's lamp, contains so much story, truth, heartbreak, and wisdom. It left as big an impression as a tome, and in 160 odd pages that is something special.
Glenn Sumi
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
An unnamed Brooklyn writer and teacher meets a man, has a child with him and then discovers he’s cheating on her.

Sounds familiar, right? What makes this slim novel so memorable is the way the story unfolds in a series of vignettes that can be anything from a quote from a poem to an odd historical fact to haiku-like observations about life. Reading the book takes work. Images recur, characters known by their titles (“the philosopher,” “the almost astronaut”) come and go, and we’re left to connect
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Teresa
Aug 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Teresa by: Cathrine
A couple of friends had recommended this book to me and then ·Karen·'s review stating its contradistinction to Elena Ferrante's The Days of Abandonment sent me, intrigued, to immediately request it from the library. With very similar stories, the writing couldn't be more different. I'm not always a fan of minimalist writing and in the beginning I didn't think I was going to care for it here. But then not too far along, something clicked and I 'got' it. There's a major difference to the stories t ...more
Elyse
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Original!

Sometimes Hilarious!

Absorbing and beautifully tenderly absurd slim novel that strikes a cord of truth.

A meaningful story.

Reveals the light within the darkness!

A one sitting read!
Lee
Aug 14, 2014 rated it liked it
There's a tricky point of view thing in this in which early on the husband is addressed as "you" and then, when husband and wife experience marital difficulties, the intimacy of that direct address is lost (he's called "he") until the very end, midway through the final page (it's not really a spoiler), when the husband is addressed as "you" again. And that's exactly the sort of thing that maybe kept me from giving this four stars -- although it superficially presents a "real" reality it does so ...more
Jenna
4.5! I want to review this book for a number of reasons, partly because it's so small and slight that I fear readers will ignore it. But, like Thomas Paine's Common Sense, its resemblance to a modest pamphlet belies the size of its punch.

This book is an excellent character study and an example of what greatness can be achieved when an author trusts her reader and thus avoids the sin of overwriting.

These days, many movies seem longer and sloppier and less craftily edited to me. Likewise, it seem
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  • The Wallcreeper
  • Leaving the Atocha Station
  • The UnAmericans
  • After Birth
  • Outline
  • Silence Once Begun
  • How to Get into the Twin Palms
  • The Blazing World
  • This Is Between Us
  • The Flamethrowers
  • Women
  • Family Life
  • Nobody Is Ever Missing
  • The Empathy Exams: Essays
  • Never Mind
  • The Days of Abandonment
  • Dear Committee Members
  • The Last Days of California
243 followers
Jenny Offill is an American author born in Massachusetts. Her first novel Last Things was published in 1999 was a New York Times Notable book and a finalist for the L.A Times First Book Award.

She is also the co-editor with Elissa Schappell of two anthologies of essays and the author of several children's books She teaches in the MFA programs at Brooklyn College, Columbia University and Queens Univ
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More about Jenny Offill
“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.” 76 likes
“If I had to sum up what he did to me, I’d say it was this: he made me sing along to all the bad songs on the radio. Both when he loved me and when he didn't.” 64 likes
More quotes…