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This is a clifi book with a difference: there are jokes. It’s written in very short quirky grabs for the most part, so you have to work to figure out what the narrator (Lizzy, librarian, wife and mother) is talking about about, but you soon get the hang of it. The thoughts that roam through Lizzy’s humorous mind are to do with climate change, extinction, the shock of the Trump win, family life, her recovering drug addict brother to whom she’s very attached, her generous Christian mother on a tiny income, America’s disastrous health care system, meditation, zazen, etc. She meets a war correspondent and asks him for his take on present day America. He says it has the feel of a country that will soon be at war - with itself, he seems to mean - and current indications are that this is not outside the realm of possibility. There are some winsomely humorous ideas for surviving after a catastrophe. You can make a 2 hour candle out of a can of tuna packed in oil and eat the tuna after, for example. The whole thing seems like a random collection of fleeting thoughts but of course it isn’t. Its a clever portrayal of the current zeitgeist that’s all the more effective because of the humour. Did enjoy the jokes, especially the one about the Americans, Syrians and Russians sent into a forest to find a rabbit. Doesn’t take long to read, either.
It’s written the way that life unfolds. A million fleeting thoughts a day, sparked by tiny noticings, but then explored with the intent of contributing to a broader understanding, or a wisdom, or to understand the “core delusion” as she puts it and tries to answer in her last line.
I was captivated by this book. I didn’t exactly look forward to picking it up each time but when I did I couldn’t put it down. Her dread resonated with me, and because it seemed to start with Trump’s Election Day, it resonated more because the dread I have started there too.
Questions about survival and meaning occur to me the way they occur to the narrator also, as does the difficulty but necessity of classifying them as emergency or delusion. As a librarian classifies, which she is.
Love is also explored transiently but deeply. Her love for her brother seems at times deeper than her love for her husband but also and equally vice versa. And her cerebral soulmate “affair” casts both in a different light.
Some of her random wisdom from emails or from her psychologist or from Sylvia her boss were profound and their randomness and brevity made them more valuable.
She is a confident and individual writer and her style is solid, bullet-proof, and poetic in a way that takes no prisoners, and she herself is no prisoner. But it’s not defiant because she has nothing to defy.
I admire a writer who breaks the mould and charts her own expressive territory and consequently I experienced an interesting sense of vague disillusion wrapped in vague confusion wrapped in vague insecurity wrapped in vague discontent. And that it is truthful, and that it wouldn’t have been as truthful written any other way.
This is a book that is both individual and global. It is about today's multi tasking woman, managing her young child's school drop-offs and pick-ups, her addict brother's support, a wife, a librarian, and pod-caster's assistant. All this in the middle of global environment and political concerns of 2020. It is written in mostly short " stream of consciousness " paragraphs. They narrative is humorous and while you are still smiling, the veracity catches you by surprise. A quick read.
not as obsessed as the narrator baking in a different new novel, but neurotic, in a happy, New Yorker, way. Add a brother who has issues, who has had, and, probably, will always have issues. A young son. A husband. Work as a librarian who lacks a degree; a counselor, who lacks a degree. It's an enjoyable way to ignore what is going on in the news.
I enjoyed reading this book for a different perspective from my own. The character is conflicted with various life altering complications, on top of the 2016 election results and the pressure of climate change. Hence the title. Not as good as Dept. of Speculation, but worth the reading time. It's short and sweet.
I watched a video by the author before reading the book. She spoke about young people suffering more anxiety. It brought to mind several seminars I have been to lately about this very topic. Oddly, this work of fiction has moved me closer to a plan than the seminars did. 🤷♀️ I am usually not a fan of stream of consciousness styles, but I enjoyed her writing. I especially appreciated the white space and the variety of fonts.
I admire Offill to no end for her structural practice. A rebellion in and of itself. From the standpoint of craft: she can be learned from. For writers, I think. Dept. of Speculation was the first book I read by her and I was quite struck by it and highly recommended it.