Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Fine, this is a novel. So what? My only definition of a short story is that it invites you to read it in one sitting, so this fits the bill. And everything about it says short: the fragments it’s made up of; the weird formatting; the bluntness of the plot; the diffident compression of the style. Plus, it’s really very short. And it’s probably my favourite thing I have in the house, apart from people and animals. You can often find me hanging around near the Os in bookshops, hoping I can vibe browsers in its direction. At home, I usually have one of my several copies within reach, and I read the whole thing a couple of times a year. I’ve started teaching it now, but even that hasn’t helped, and me and the students just end up sitting there reading our favourite bits out to each other. Offill said somewhere she was trying to emulate Johnson in Jesus’ Son, but that Johnson used to say he was ripping off Red Cavalry by Isaac Babel; so I bought that too, but I still haven’t read it, and I’m not sure I actually know where it is. Never mind, let’s just read Dept. of Speculation again.

Granta Books, 2014