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Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

2014, Granta Books

This account of a woman's struggles related to career, marriage, motherhood and infidelity is written in short chapters and paragraphs which reveal the plot while interspersing it with various thoughts about life.

I stopped reading after just a few paragraphs which I imagined to be superficial but then read a raving review and decided to see if it was my mistake. Such a short book, so why not? Plus my friend Michele lent it to me specifically because I "like to speculate on life". I ended up reading to the end with interest.


The comments on betrayal were right-on and real.


When the narrator's husband (who works in the media) reads to their child, he includes "very very slowly the entire copyright page." (34) I noticed on the very last page the type designer is given credit. I wonder if the note was included on request by the author. Nice.

Theory of Light

I also noted with interest the narrator's theory that all people are born radiating light but this light diminishes with age.

The poets, the mystics, the explorers had somehow managed to keep a bit of this light that was meant to have dimmed. But ...the unbearable thing...was that the natural order was for this light to vanish. It hung on sometimes through the twenties, a glint here or there in the thirties, and then almost always the eyes went dark. (31)

I was reminded of this in Gyasi's book Transcendent Kingdom when the narrator describes her father's heart as "a lightbulb, dimming with age." (15)

My own Dad's eyes still twinkle with light. I'd speculate that I'm very lucky.

My Dad and I


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Mar 18, 2021

Maybe because your dad had something of "[t]he poets, the mystics, the explorers"...

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