Anytime I think I am a semidecent person, I remember this story someone told me once about her ex-husband. He was always late getting home. He never came home when he said he would, and I thought I knew this story before she told it, but I was wrong. It was just that he had a rule that if anyone asked him for help he would pause to see what that person needed. And then he would try to get them that thing if he could. Sometimes it was money, sometimes food; once a man needed a belt and he gave him his. The reason he was always late was that his office was next door to Penn Station. They broke up because he was a mean drunk, but still.
A couple of months ago, I read Dept. of Speculation, a fantastic novel by Jenny Offill. When I discovered that the author was releasing a new book this year, I immediately preordered it. That new book is Weather.
It’s pretty good.
What is it about?
A librarian navigates various anxieties and social obligations, like global warming, national politics, family drama, work, friendships, neighbors, and random people.
What is this book like?
It’s like a more unfocused Dept. of Speculation. Like that book, Weather is composed of a series of fragmented thoughts, musings, trivia, impressions, and observations.
What’s awesome about this book?
The same funny, insightful voice that was such a pleasure in Dept. of Speculation is present in Weather. It’s very well written, with each passage a poetic delight of observation and language.
What sucks about this book?
I had a heck of a time getting into this book. It expresses a multitude of simultaneous anxieties, throughout multiple levels of concern (i.e. global, national, familial, personal, etc.). It’s a snapshot of the consciousness of a particular type of person (white liberal) at a particular time (now) and place (East Coast America). So, intellectually, it’s an interesting exercise.
Nevertheless, it just felt jumpy. It seemed like there were too many topics, too many characters, too many issues. Perhaps the author’s intention was to make the reader viscerally feel the anxiety of the character by similarly overwhelming the reader. Buy even if it was on purpose, it sometimes wasn’t much fun to read. And it was difficult for me to follow the narrative thread. I would frequently forget who major characters were (as they were usually identified by first name with no reminders later of who they were).
It is worth reading, particularly if you are already a fan of Jenny Offill, but I would not suggest that everybody I know read this one.
TLDR: Read this book if you:
- are a fan of Dept. of Speculation
- are an anxious, white liberal person that lives on the East Coast and want to see your anxieties in a well-written format
- want to read about what anxious, white liberal people that live on the East Coast are freaking out about
TLDR: Avoid this book if you:
- are not a fan of Dept. of Speculation
- are Conservative and/or do not believe in the existence of global warming
- voted for Donald Trump
- like clear, straightforward narratives
Read Dept. of Speculation. If you want more of that style of writing, then try this out.
My Rating: 4 Stars