Dept. of Speculation

Narrated by: Jenny Offill
Length: 3 hrs and 10 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (618 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Jenny Offill’s heroine, referred to in these pages as simply “the wife”, once exchanged love letters with her husband postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty that inheres in life and in the strangely fluid confines of a long relationship. As they confront an array of common catastrophes - a colicky baby, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions - the wife analyzes her predicament, invoking everything from Keats and Kafka to the thought experiments of the Stoics to the lessons of doomed Russian cosmonauts. She muses on the consuming, capacious experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it as she confronts the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands of art. With cool precision, in language that shimmers with rage and wit and fierce longing, Jenny Offill has crafted an exquisitely suspenseful love story that has the velocity of a train hurtling through the night at top speed. Exceptionally lean and compact, Dept. of Speculation is a novel to be devoured in a single sitting, though it’s bracing emotional insights and piercing meditations on despair and love will linger long after the last moment.

©2014 Jenny Offill (P)2014 Dreamscape Media, LLC

Critic Reviews

"Clever, subtle, and rife with strokes of beauty, this book is both readable in a single sitting and far ranging in the emotions it raises.... Offill has equal parts cleverness and erudition, but it’s her language and eye for detail that make this a must-read." (Publishers Weekly)

"Jenny Offill's Dept. of Speculation resembles no book I've read before. If I tell you that it's funny, and moving, and true; that it's as compact and mysterious as a neutron; that it tells a profound story of love and parenthood while invoking (among others) Keats, Kafka, Einstein, Russian cosmonauts, and advice for the housewife of 1896, will you please simply believe me, and read it?" (Michael Cunningham)

"Dept. of Speculation is gorgeous, funny, a profound and profoundly moving work of art. Jenny Offill is a master of form and feeling, and she gets life on the page in new, startling ways." (Sam Lipsyte)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Similar to a highly polished Moth reading

Jenny Offill's Dept. of Speculation is a tight, compact collection of letters written to her husband. I listened to the work as an audiobook. I felt as if I were hearing someone read intimate journal entries. I was reminded of a really long but highly polished Moth reading. Overall, I enjoyed the experience and found myself referring back to phrases and passages from the book, always a good sign the author's done something right.

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Brilliant

Wonderful writing, and wonderful narration by the author. I enjoyed every minute. The story's about a thirty something young woman known simply as The Wife and is told io the first person. Her character is richly developed as is that of her husband and child and the intricate feelings and Evers which ensue. The language is sparse, muscular really, which gives the story it's strength.

5 people found this helpful

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Profoundly human

This is not a fluffy feel good book. However, it is an enjoyable read with an autobiographical tone. I found it to be refreshingly real and insightful.

10 people found this helpful

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I found the Heroine dislikable

I think the main character needed better support; that her physicians, and the people before that who helped form her philosophy, let her down. She seemed too constantly terrorized by unfulfilled ambitions and desires, and she was a wreck on drugs.

Jeff

28 people found this helpful

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certainly not 'clever'

After the first hour I had to quit. There was no plot, no point to the stories, they didn't flow, nothing she said was remarkable in any way. very disappointed.

41 people found this helpful

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Offill. Truly awful.

Narcissistic, self-absorbed prattle. I'm amazed I listened to it all. The high praise this book has received (not earned) is indicative of the publishing world's infatuation with itself.

58 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Let all flowers wither like a party

"Surely all art is the result of one's having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, to where no one can go any further."
- Rainer Maria Rilke

"Let all flowers wither like a party"
- John Berryman

"Our words are preserved in tin foil and will come back upon the application of this instrument and so we try as much as we can to speak kindly to each other."
- Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation

A short sad beautiful novella about life, love, marriage, going crazy, being human, beauty, dust, stars, and the little observations that we make and that art keeps. Offill seems to have a strange pulse on my generation and the way the spin of the world seems to both make everything unique, poetic and strange, yet familiar and part of some cosmic theme that only Carl Sagan could make sense of (and perhaps not). Lovely. Like love and marriage I want to have my wife read it, but only the unsad parts. But I know that is impossible. The book's humor is threaded through with sad, beautiful, soulful, parts that seem to echo with me.

This book is my wife's. I bought the book for her. I gave it to her for Christmas, but I've already read it/listened to it and tagged my favorite parts. So is the book hers anymore? Was it ever hers? Is it now ours? Perhaps, I'll make her read it tonight so it can be ours or hers once again.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

I love a story told in a different way!

It's a story we all know--young love, the excitement of everything new, making plans, marriage, baby comes, routines start, someone gets restive and the poop hits the fan.
This short, wonderful book is the story told by an omniscient third person, describing bits of 'the wife's' memories, sweet, stinging, sad, terse, & revealing.
And my description is light years from how witty, and profound, and stunning this book is. Fantastic, really.

3 people found this helpful

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awful

absolutely no plot. depressing listen. I wasted a credit and hours of my life that I can never get back.

37 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Brilliant writing style! So witty

Jenny Offill's writing style is like nothing I have experienced before. Brilliant! She makes the ordinary so interesting.

2 people found this helpful