HITTING SHELVES #3: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Dept. of Speculation

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill comes out today! This is the most clever and lovable book I’ve read in a long time. It’s the story of a vulnerable marriage, told in little jabs of diamond-sharp prose by a wife whose mind wanders from bedbugs to cosmonauts, from Rilke to yoga pants. It’s a little book that feels enormous.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of Dept. of Speculation?

Jenny Offill: On publication day, I am giving a reading at Bookcourt, the bookstore in Brooklyn where I used to work.

To prepare for this event, I will rise at dawn and do 192 pushups (one for each page of the novel) and then mix an elixir of Red Bull and raw eggs and powdered gold leaf. I will drink this while reciting long passages from my book in a soft, poety voice to myself.

I will put on a dress and fancy shoes and brush my long golden hair until it gleams like the fur of a wild animal.

Lipstick will be applied. Teeth will be scanned for errant lipstick lest people confuse my cheery, well put together self with my main character who is unhinged.

Jenny Offill
Jenny Offill

I will take a moment to worry that no one will come to my reading, that even if dear friends do I will not have provided enough food or wine for them. I will consider my own fraudulence and ignorance, my vast stores of pettiness and sloth.

I will vow to be less lazy, less self-indulgent, to go immediately into my room to work on my soul-killing unfinished novel instead of staring moonily into the mirror.

It will occur to me that my novel is finished, that is published even, and that I am being given a party (at Bookcourt! Bookcourt!) to celebrate this.

I will remove my fancy shoes and jump up and down on my bed.


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