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"Weather " is yet another fragmented, MFA-chic, tedious narration of boring events in the life of a contemporary jaded writer. From "Orange, Fame, Citrus" to now, I suspect we are being served up the barely edited journal entries of frantic careerists forced to meet deadlines. To add insult to shoddiness, the book is both tiny - 205 pages including acknowledgments, 5"X7.5" for $23.95. You have been warned. If you want to read real fiction, read Colm Toibin or Lee Barnes or Tana French.
Oh Higher Power! Please save us from tripe like this "novel"! I was sucked in to buying it on the basis of false advertising reviews featured before its publication suggesting that it wrestled with the perplexities of all of us trying to come to grips with the worst fears and risks as we strive to contextualize something so stark and unfathomable as global warming into the routines of our everyday lives. Instead, the most sustained theme in the story is Lizzie the protagonist's engulfing crisis that involves her effort to assist her brother Henry to get drug and mental therapy and quell his thoughts of killing her newly born daughter Iris after the failure of his short-lived marriage to Catherine. Climate change drifts in and out of focus in the novel's fragmented plot as an omnipresent, but muted, subtheme at best. The conundrums of weaving so horrific a threat in a manner that acknowledges its interperspnal import and demands collective response deserve much more formidable writing prowess than deployed in what passes for a new and rising subgenre within literary fiction these days. I feel cheated and conned both by its republication marketing and release!
Maybe there'll be a point later, but I don't feel much need to slog through poorly crafted prose, with no plot, a boring heroine, no deep understanding of human nature. Of course I haven't finished it and I probably won't.
This may appeal to some, but it seems to be the worst thing I've read in a decade.
Lizzie is a university librarian, married with a young son and a depressed brother. Weather unfolds over a period of a few years, and though it's a quick read, it's full of pithy and poignant observations as Lizzie contemplates topical traumas and philosophizes on aging, climate change, false optimism, and, of course, marriage.
Nothing extraordinary happens in Weather. Even Dept of Speculation had more of a plot. It's the literary equivalent of a painting in a modern art gallery, the one with a plain canvas and a two brushstrokes that sold for $1 million. Simple and understated, yet somehow perfect. Lizzie jumps from topic to topic, and in so doing, elevates the mundane to the memorable, the pedestrian to gut-wrenching. "Are you sure you're my mother?" asks her son early on. "Sometimes you don't seem like a good enough person."
Everyone in Weather is trying to cling to life and a semblance of normality, even more so after the 2016 elections that occur midway during the book. "Should we get a gun?" Lizzie's husband asks. "But it's America. You don't even get on the news if you shoot less than three people." Thinks Lizzie, in response: "His grandfather's name was twice as long as his. They shortened it at Ellis Island." (If that seems like a non sequitur, you may not enjoy Weather.) At another juncture, Lizzie's brother confronts an automobile driver who almost hit them as they walked. "She won't look at him. 'You and your precious lives,' she says."
Whiffs of impending peril permeate Weather. In times of disaster, Lizzie reminds us a few times, the brain freezes. Everyone needs a plan of escape, whether a doomstead in New Zealand or a house high on a hill or a motivating mantra. Those who ignore the signs will not survive. It's not exactly uplifting, which is probably why the last page includes a link to a what-can-we-do-about-all-this? site called Obligatory Note of Hope.
Short but potent. I'll read it again, maybe tomorrow.
I loved Offill’s previous novel, Dept. of Speculation, and while this one is written in a very similar fashion (tiny fragments of observation), I found it much less engaging. This one has much less plot (I would say it doesn’t even have a plot), and more importantly, much less humor (though there are still some funny bits, there are also about ten straight up jokes, like out of a cheap joke book jokes scattered about, which just felt weird). With less story to carry the book forward (there’s just the relationships between the barely rendered characters), the observations have to carry a lot of weight, but for me, they most often felt shallow and uninteresting. Maybe that was the point, but banal doesn’t really hold one’s interest. A vague fear of climate change and of Trump haunts the book, a certain collapsology taking over the main characters thoughts, even as she continues to live what seems like a pretty comfortable life in New York, working in a library, married, raising a son, going to therapy with her brother, practicing meditation, going to the dentist. There’s a certain softness to the book, that as I think about it, seems really disappointing. Overall, pretty forgettable.
I have mixed feelings about this book. No doubt it is beautifully written, almost like a prose poem, written in short bursts of streamlined thought. There is minimal plot: a librarian living in this time of acute climate uncertainty, whose existential dread unravels her and the people around her.
I have always believed that the purpose of a story is to illuminate transformation. The only transformation is this novel is a woman who goes from anxiety about potential doom to acceptance of inevitable doom. And to provide a detailed listing of all the ways in which urban elites are planning to survive the earth's destruction. (Getting three passports for their children, so they can quickly move and work to any country that might be stable; learning survival skills; booking space travel.)
Dear God though. It is so depressing. Perhaps because it feels so real, this sense of inevitable doom. It reads like a book intended to be put in a time capsule, so the aliens who find this dessicated planet centuries from now will be able to understand what life was like for urban elites living near the end of time.
But for those of us who are living right now, at least for this person, I have a hard time co-signing on such despair. I just can’t do it Perhaps our life on earth is temporary. Wait, strike that: for CERTAIN, our life on earth is temporary. It always has been and always will be. So why spend it in such a state of despair?
This is a gem of a book! Superbly well written, insightful and, at times, very funny this is a novel that addresses many of the anxieties of our present time. The fragmented structure of the writing will be off-putting to many readers. If you're someone who doesn't like anything but straight prose, then you'll probably want to pass on this book. It's almost a written version of a well-crafted stand-up comedy routine. Each passage has a finely honed edge and gets a emotional response from you. Sometimes you share in the protagonist Lizzie's sense of frustration and dread and then your smiling at her plucky sense of humor in the very next paragraph.
We are so many different things to so many different people in our lives. With so many obligations and expectations asked of us on a daily basis it's easy to lose ones own identity. Lizzie struggles to maintain the balance of her immediate family ( husband and son) with her extended family (a brother who is a recovering drug addict and father to a infant daughter). Not to mention trying to balance her job with (a librarian) with trying to assist a former mentor with getting out the important and critical message about climate change. Her mentor's podcast is called 'The Center Cannot Hold' which is a fine nod to Yeats, an apt warning of the consequences of our current treatment of Planet Earth and, your fear, a somber prediction for the future Lizzie's personal life.
But then again, it's not as dire as all that. Lizzie continues being Lizzie and getting through life the best that she can. Most importantly she maintains her sense of humor. As a coping device she researches about how to become a 'prepper' with a whole slew of trivia tidbits dredged up on Google; create a 2 hour candle from a can of tuna - oil packed, not water packed, create fire from a foil chewing gum wrapper and a nine volt battery, catch fish with a wad a chewed gum and a paperclip hook, etc... No factoid is too esoteric or random for her not to squirrel away for later use. Then reality sets in:
'... one day I have to run to catch a bus. I am so out of breath when I get there that I know in a flash all my preparations for the apocalypse are doomed. I will die early and ignobly.'
Funny, tragic and relatable. But that's life, isn't it? As a famous poet wrote: 'All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one (wo)man in his(her) time plays many parts...' Lizzie is one of us. She keeps plugging away and so must we all. This is a very good book and an easy read. I highly recommend it!
So I decided to treat myself during the pandemic and buy 2 ebooks. I am very sad that I spent $12 on this book. I'm actually more angry than sad, because I can't believe this is a published book. And yes, I finished it because I paid $12 for it, and because I must be wrong, because of all the great reviews the book has gotten.
Weather is basically a stream of consciousness from the author. Sometimes it is punctuated with jokes. Very little happens, and I guess that's true of life, but no one reads or experiences my life, or pays for it. It is "about" Lizzie, a librarian, her addicted/mentally ill brother, her husband and son, and a few other people. Anything that resembles a plot could be written in 10 pages- good marriage, normal child, sick brother. Lizzie is obsessed with a catastrophe happening, and begins thinking like a prepper, but takes no steps, just thinks.
I enjoyed the jokes, but I didn't find the rest of the writing particularly interesting or good. Lots of modern day clichés- women are invisible after 50, white people have privilege, people are uncaring. It was a bad, boring book, I am very sorry I spent my money on it.