Jenny Offill


Lizzie is a librarian at the university where she was once a promising graduate student. She dropped out years ago in an attempt to rescue her younger brother from the throes of addiction. But one day her old mentor, Sylvia, asks for a favor. She wants Lizzie to answer the mail for her famous doom-laden podcast, Hell and High Water. Soon she is fielding questions from left wingers worried about climate change and right wingers worried about the decline of western civilization. As Lizzie dives into this polarized world, she begins to wonder what it means to keep tending your own garden once you've seen the flames beyond its walls. And all the while the voices of the city keep floating in--funny, disturbing, and increasingly mad.

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“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
It’s short and funny and absorbing, an effortless-seeming downhill ride that picks up astonishing narrative speed as it goes. What’s remarkable is that Offill achieves this effect using what you might call an experimental or avant-garde style of narration, one that we associate with difficulty and disorientation rather than speed and easy pleasure.
— New York Review of Books
Dept. of Speculation is all the more powerful because, with its scattered insights and apparently piecemeal form, it at first appears slight. Its depth and intensity make a stealthy purchase on the reader.
— James Wood, The New Yorker
A heartbreaking and exceptional book by a writer who doesn't settle for less.
— Lydia Millet
Dept. of Speculation is gorgeous, funny, a profoundly moving work of art. She gets life on the page in new, startling ways.
- Sam Lipsyte
Last Things mines an interval of childhood before the division of intellectual labor. In this state of innocence, science, philosophy, mythology, bunk, wonder, and sorrow are all one. Jenny Offill's complicated and arresting farewell to this dangerous time is compelling as few recent novels on the subject have been.”
— Rick Moody
“If Last Things means things that will last, then Offill's book is one of them.
— New York Times Book Review
Read an excerpt