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Dept. of Speculation MP3 CD – 28 Jan 2014

3.6 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Product details

  • MP3 CD
  • Publisher: Dreamscape Media; MP3 Una edition (28 Jan. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1629231878
  • ISBN-13: 978-1629231877
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.9 x 12.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,093,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

'With exceptional originality, intensity and sweetness, Dept. of Speculation is a shattered novel that stabs and sparkles at the same time. It is the kind of book that you will be quoting over and over to friends who don't quite understand, until they give in and read it too' --John Self, Guardian

'It's often extremely funny and often painful; earnestly direct but glancingly ironic... Dept. of Speculation is all the powerful because it first appears slight. Its depth and intensity make a stealthy purchase on the reader' --James Wood, New Yorker

'Profoundly moving... Offill nails life to the page. She's good on falling in love. She's good on the poleaxing exhaustion of early motherhood. But she's at her best on the grim, "stateless" no-man's-land between being a wife and becoming a divorcee. And if all of this bleakness makes you quest, don't be. Offill is also sharply witty and there is a happy ending' --Intelligent Life

'Beautiful, carefully crafted... The effect is poetic in its beauty and intensity. It is also very funny. It is about life, unvarnished, yet every bit of it made profound by Offill's glorious prose' --Financial Times

'Dense with intelligence and life... Offill is incisive on the pleasures, terrors and frustrations of parenthood. Although the book is often sad, it is also funny. It reveals depth and beauty in small, mundane things' --Prospect

'Arresting… In one section, I cried both times I read it' --3AM Magazine

'Magnificent and very funny… Dept. of Speculation is the sort of book which, if you went through it with a pencil, underlining quotable lines, would end up being entirely underlined. I finished it in one sitting then went straight back to the beginning' --Irish Independent

'A fast-paced and fragmented text... Such observed moments of boredom, joy and terror are the triumph of this novel, spilling panic, pain and confusion of marriage and motherhood on to the page' **** --Sunday Telegraph

'Brilliant... oddly invigorating, like a strong martini' --'Top Summer Reads', Metro

'Brilliant, risk-taking and thought-provoking... Offill has a gift for saying something extraordinary in a handful of words [and] tells it with mesmerising skill. Dept of Speculation is astute and affecting. Offill has created a masterpiece that is philosophical, funny and moving' --Irish Times

'Offill has pinned down the bewildering wonder of new motherhood in sentences that are tense and precise. The fragmentary structure of the novel perfectly conjures the scattered thoughts of a creative mind, scooping up all in its wake' --Times Literary Supplement

'Very funny, very sad' --'Books of the Year', Daily Telegraph

'I absolutely adored it. It's like nothing I've ever read. Even though it's a small book, it builds up to something great' --Doon Mackichan, BBC Radio 4's A Good Read

'I have read and re-read Jenny Offill's ingenious, moving and refreshing Dept of Speculation. It manages to reinvent the whole medium of the novel. And that's certainly not something you see every day' -- 'Book of the year' chosen by Maggie O'Farrell, Sunday Herald

'Offill's book delicately examines the minutiae of a modern marriage. With so much conveyed in so few words, it's simply brilliant' --Book of the year in the Stylist

'It's a timeless, even, some might say, predictable story, but Offill's innovative fragmentary structure breathes a fresh and visceral vibrancy into this age-old saga. Beautifully devastating, Dept. of Speculation is a worthy inclusion on this year's Folio prize shortlist' --Paperback of the Week, Observer
'Jenny Offill has such a specific way of writing, and her words touch something very deep in me' --Clémence Poésy, PORTER magazine

'It was my favourite book of last year and I keep returning to it. Compelling and heartbreaking... This is writing at its inventory, original best and I can't wait to see what Offill will do next' -- Maggie O'Farrell, Daily Mail
'Written in fragments that seem at first to be random thoughts plucked from Offill's mental wanderings, but gradually coalescing into a rich and satisfying whole, the narrative (and the narrator) are propped up by eclectic oneliners - from poets to various astronauts - and even a snippet of advice for wives circa 1896 to avoid the indiscriminate reading of novels lest it breeds a contempt for domestic duties. Offill's novel is a life raft: read it for its unsentimental scoop on love, the breaking of something good, and the possibility of patching the cracks and pulling through' -- Independent
'In this fast-paced, fractured text [...] brief first-person paragraphs, aphorisms and quotations build in tension... As these diary-like entries build, so, too, does the claustrophobia that domesticity can bring... Such observed moments of boredom, joy and terror are the triumph of this novel, spilling the panic, pain and confusion of marriage and motherhood onto the page' --Beth Jones, Belfast Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

JENNY OFFILL is the author of Last Things (Bloomsbury, 1999) which was chosen as notable or best book of the year by the Guardian, the New York Times, the Village Voice, and was a finalist for the LA Times First Fiction Prize. She teaches Creative Writing at Columbia University, and is on the faculty at Brooklyn College and Queens University of Charlotte. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the final accounting a novel is only a series of stated facts that aren't true. In Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill takes this truth to its formal extreme. This short novel is written in a spare prose that often reads like notebook jottings, abstract poetry or clippings from a textbook. Yet it's precisely this pared-back form that lends her unnamed protagonist such a vibrant, funny, fragmented inner life. Dept. of Speculation is a searingly truthful anatomisation of the growth and decay of a marriage; of the strange and shifting nature of a mother's love for her child.

It's also about writing; or the impossibility of it. The protagonist is riding the wash of a successful literary debut but has failed to progress with her second. She takes a job ghost-writing the memoir of a successful businessman and failed astronaut, and some of the book's most powerful prose-poetry – and its strongest images of separation and loss – come from her research into the history of space travel.

"There is a red dwarf star called Ross 248. In 40,000 years, Voyager 2 will come within 1.7 light years of it, still far enough away that it will seem like no more than a dot of light. Astronomers say that if you looked at it through the porthole of Voyager 2, it would seem to slowly brighten over the millennia, then slowly dim for many more."
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If a regular novel is the sea, this is salt crystals. It has the strong arc and characterization you want in a favourite novel, but concentrated into a tiny package. I know other people say you can read it at a single sitting, but I'd recommend trying to read it slowly, just a little bit each day, because for such a small novel, it packs a big emotional punch.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very different. I can understand why it wouldn't click with everyone but I loved it.
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A simple story that tracks the ups and downs of a marriage as seen from the perspective of the young wife and mother. It is quite telling that midway through the story, the pronouns change from first person to third, as if the narrator tries to dissociate herself from the changes in her relationship with her husband, because it proves too distressing and traumatic to be confronted head-on. Just prior to this turnaround, the narrator is struck by these ominous, yet prophetic words from her agent, who says that "every marriage is jerry-rigged. Even the ones that look reasonable from the outside are held together inside with chewing gum and wire and string." It suffices to say that what happens next isn't the stuff of rocket science.

Offill's narrator/character is a creative writing professor and the most interesting bits in this rather checkered and sketchy novel are the parts when she tries to analyse what she was about to recount in relation to the rules of writing, and she finds that ironically, real-life experience can be as cliche as the kind of fiction she tells her students not to create.

There is poignancy in the bare, seemingly unstructured style Offill employs, which evokes a certain immediacy and urgency to the narrator's/character's contradictory feelings and actions, as she tries to find a middle ground to the fallout in her till-then complacent life. However, the novel lacked a certain depth and felt as transient and incidental as the nuggets of facts she sprinkles (albeit lightly) throughout this slim volume.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved Dept. of Speculation, it reminded me the pure originality of I Remember by Joe Brainard, also a book that I recommend.
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I live in Brooklyn. I teach creative writing. I'm in therapy. I wrote a novel years back, but can't seem to write another. I'm a bit ditzy...you know with practical things. What's that you say? I'm a stock and somewhat irritating character that any creative writing teacher worth their salt would tell their students to avoid like ebola? Yes, I guess I am. I'm married to a man who makes soundscapes. That's what men in Brooklyn do. He's nice. Kind. And we have a kid, a daughter. She pukes and cries. What's that you say? All babies do that? Oh. I'm so wrapped up in myself, I hadn't actually considered that. I'm uncertain about motherhood and my marriage hits the rocks for an utterly predictable reason. So in this, my second novel, I tell my story. What's that? Don't I have any imagination or ideas or interest in people not like me? No...I...sorry, I don't really understand the question. What I do is make the narrative fragmentary and imagistic and pepper it with quotes from artists and writers and, you know, people in my sphere, so other writers will think it's great. What's that? Now and then it can be nicely off-beat and charming, and at least it's not another traditionally structured novel? Oh thanks. And my next novel? Well, thanks for asking; it's very different. It's set in Brooklyn and it's about this woman writer but this time I pepper the fragmented narrative with...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am really puzzled by some of the sneering reviews here, as I found this book to be genuinely moving -- an experimental, which is to say original, approach to what is admittedly an old story, but the reason it's old is that it does happen in life so often. What impressed me was that Offill managed to convey it without exactly telling it, to get the facts across obliquely, since we all know the bare outlines already. But what impressed me even more was that, unlike most experimental novels, or novels with lots of intellectual references, it wasn't some kind of exercise in cerebration; it was suffused with the kind of tenderness you just can't fake. I agree with a previous reviewer that 10:04 and How Should a Person Be? were merely irritatingly narcissistic, but I truly didn't feel that way about this book.
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