Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hating often, easily, and beautifully (Books - Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill)

Jenny Offill has written an unusual novel in Dept. of  Speculation (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014) and I thank John Self for making me aware of it.  Angular, full of sarcastic wit and bitter rage, its 177 pages are composed of short, Neruda like paragraphs that are enigmatic on their own, but that one tears through at break neck pace.  In fact, I challenge you not to read this compact, forceful book in one sitting.  It would be impossible.  You would lose the satisfaction of figuring out whether the accumulation of Offill's short lyrical bursts will give up the goods and yield a plot in the classic, recognizable sense of the word, or whether you will be left sifting through the bits to figure out what happened to her characters, named The Wife and husband.
My plan was to never get married.  I was going to be an art monster instead.  Women almost never become art monsters because art monsters only concern themselves with art, never mundane things.  Nabokov didn't even fold his own umbrella.  Vera licked his stamps for him. 
The Wife's expectations of life are overturned, it might be fair to say that life attacks her, at least it feels that way for her, and henceforward she emphatically refuses the stereotypes offered her of the nurturing and forgiving victim.
I hate often and easily.  I hate, for example, people who sit with their legs splayed. People who claim to give 110 percent.  People who call themselves "comfortable" when what they mean is decadently rich.  You're so judgmental, my shrink tells me, and I cry all the way home, thinking of it.

People keep telling me to do yoga.  I tried it once at the place down the street.  The only part I liked was the part at the end when the teacher covered you with a blanket and you got to pretend you were dead for ten minutes. 
The results are surprising, sometime laugh-out-loud funny, although I immediately felt guilty after laughing, and most of all, bracing, for her refusal to be comforted or comfortable.


Sheila O'Malley said...

Oh my gosh, I must read this.

Ted said...

Sheila - I think you would love her voice and this character.