People keep telling me to do yoga. I tried it once at the place down the street. The only part I liked was the part at the end when the teacher covered you with a blanket and you got to pretend you were dead for ten minutes.
Dept. of Speculation was on my wishlist on the merit of the many positive reviews I read about it. This wasn't a much hyped book, just a book that seemed to silently win many fans. If you had asked me what I knew about the book before I started reading it, I could tell you nothing. So it wasn't a surprise when I started reading it that I was more shocked than enamored by the format of the book.
The book is full of mostly 3-4 line long paragraphs, each dealing with distinct ideas, thoughts, facts, or experiences. This book is what your Twitter feed could look like if you made a book containing all your tweets. Context is limited to each passage and it will be a while before you get a feel for the person behind the passage. This is also a difficult book to read in multiple sittings. If you can get through it in one sitting, you will probably be rewarded the most. (I finished it in two sittings.)
Did I manage to turn you away from this book by now? I may also have not read it if someone introduced me to it the same way.
Would you believe I loved this book by the end?
Dept. of Speculation is a book about many things - love, marriage and its decline, raising a child, mid-life crisis, stalling of ambitions - but it is mainly about dissatisfaction - about marriage, being a mother, and not having something to live for. It could have been just like any other book dealing with these themes, but the format Offill goes for - a string of thoughts from beginning to end - makes this book unique. Rather than trying to set the backdrop in a straightforward way as is the case in most books, she lets these thoughts paint a picture of a woman who is very disappointed with her life. And it works - very well! It just took a couple of chapters before I could actually get a strong foothold in this story.
Honestly, I don't want to say much about this book. Experiencing this book is the best way to really feel it. It's even hard to explain much about this book. After I finished a few chapters, I felt the need to put it down and read it when I had a huge block of uninterrupted reading time. Even though each passage in this book is distinct enough, they are really related in a way that isn't obvious initially - they are all trying to describe a person, a person who doesn't feel the need to start with a preamble "I am xyz and I have been married for so-many years, and I have this problem lately..." She takes you on a ride right from the first paragraph and if you don't have your distractions put away and your feet pulled up into your armchair, you aren't going to be able to appreciate it well. Even though this woman isn't exactly in high spirits, the book isn't all doom and gloom. There is plenty of humor and wisdom in it. This is also a very quick and fast read and hard to put down.
The wonderful Care at Care's Online Book Club sent me this book.