Dept. of Speculation

Dept. of Speculation

[a Novel]

Book - 2014
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"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, 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.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780385350815
Characteristics: 179 pages ;,20 cm.
Alternative Title: Department of speculation


From the critics

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Jan 02, 2020

I really liked this unique small novel about a woman's marriage and motherhood. Absolutely beautiful and intelligent writing. It takes a bit of time to enter the flow and style of Offill's work, but once you do, it is hard to put down. I am off to find her earlier book, and hope Ms. Offill writes more soon!

CRRL_MegRaymond Feb 26, 2018

While dating, a couple sent each other letters postmarked "the Dept. of Speculation". After their marriage, with a normal complement of ups and downs, "the wife" ponders her marriage and whether it will survive.

May 28, 2017

Really interesting format; honest and bold writing. Be patient, it took until half way through to connect.

May 21, 2017

The style it is written takes a little getting use to but also made it more of a quick read which is good because it is really a summary of ones life and the missed oppertunities or paths taken for whatever reasons and some philosphoies that go with that.
I found some of the sayings or connections interesting and I could resonate, we all have our thoughts and our life stories. Not sure this is memorable but a change from the usual style a book is written. Still found it a good little read for the genre that is it, I wasn't expecting any twists or suspense or anything, more a book you can just relate to in general and ponder your life and reasonings.

DBRL_IdaF Jan 09, 2017

Everyone's story is interesting from the inside, if told correctly, even if it's the same old story. Woman decides to live the life of an art monster, eschewing domestic responsibilities. Woman falls in love, gets married, has child. Opts for steady paycheck. For a while there are bedbugs. Then lice. Has The Most Wonderful Husband, until he dallies with someone else. Woman questions everything. Kind of sort of thinks again about becoming art monster.

Intriguing to me is the shifting narration. When things are wonderful, it's first person. When things are at their most painful for the wife, it's third person, a distancing. During the very worst times, the narrator even critiques the narrative, as if it's a story written by one of her students. Interspersed in the narrative are quotes from philosophers and artists.

ArapahoeAndrew Aug 02, 2016

Quick, well-written, scattered take on modern marriage. Not a downer or an upper, but really enjoyed the incoherent (at times) narration as it reflected the uncertainty faced by the protagonist.

Jun 26, 2016

This story of a marriage of nameless people is told in fragmentary paragraphs. It is very slight and all technique.

Jun 25, 2016

It took me a little while to get into the style but then I found it utterly captivating. Beautifully done. Very engaging.

multcolib_karene Jan 27, 2016

A lovely little book. It's told in snippets that are simply fascinating.

Cynthia_N Sep 25, 2015

A neat little story of a marriage. It's one of those books that you read and then one little passage has a huge impact on you.

"I never liked to hear the doorbell ring. None of the people I liked ever turned up that way."

"Three things no one has ever said about me:
You make it look so easy.
You are very mysterious.
You need to take yourself more seriously."

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Jul 30, 2015

Stream of consciousness story that is well written and a quick read. A mother and wife contemplates her life and current situation.

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