Our previous book club about Dept. of Speculation was overwhelmingly positive, so we assume you’d want to read more books like it. With some suggestions from Roy den Boer we can now give you this amazing reading list. Enjoy!
The struggle that Jenny Offill describes in Dept. about writing that second novel seemed to be just as true for her. Her first novel came out in 2000, more than 10 years before her second. Her first novel is a family drama called Last Things which circles daughter Grace and her parents. Her parents are as different as can be and when they start to grow apart, Grace has to decide with who she wants to stay. Her somewhat crazy mother who turns her life into a story or her scientist father who won’t stray from fact? Supposed to be a good coming of age debut! Besides this novel, Offill has also written a range of picture books, so you might want to have a look at those as well.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple was one of Dave Eggers favorite books of 2012, or so he told us, but it deals with similar themes of parenthood versus ambition. The story is told from the perspective of the daughter, Bee, whose mother is a revolutionary architect. She stopped working after a building that was very important to her got destroyed and then became a bit of a recluse. Still having crazy ideas, Bernadette decides that she’s going to take her daughter and husband on vacation to Antarctica where she then disappears. Where’d You Go, Bernadette really delves into the relationship between a mother and daughter and tackles the idea of paranoia and agoraphobia with humor and satire.
Continuing on the theme of having trouble with banging out a novel, we recommend Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling With D.H. Lawrence written by Geoff Dyer. The author had always wanted to write a book about D.H. Lawrence, but Dyer never had any idea what his Lawrence book should be. Out of Sheer Rage is a harrowing memoir about how his writing of this novel utterly failed and turned out to be a book not as much about D.H. Lawrence and more about writing about Lawrence and all the heartache and hatred that comes along with it.
Building Stories is a very special book as isn’t really a book at all. Chris Ware created a graphic novel that is a box with all kinds of loose pieces of paper, together with small booklets and strips of information that you can read in any order. It’s a well-crafted experimental story, told through small slivers of information that you need to put into context yourself. Slowly, a story comes into view about the inhabitants of an apartment building. One is a 30 something woman who can’t seem to find love, another an elderly couple who are doubting their relationship and finally their landlady who’s getting on in age, but has been living alone for decades. The disjointed storytelling leads to high emotions while you slowly peel away at the narrative.
And according to Jenny Offill herself her biggest contemporary influences while writing the book were Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son and Mary Robison’s Why Did I Ever. The first book is a short story collection about contemporary American life and how that often involves loneliness and hope at the same time.
Why Did I Ever is a book also written in short fragments, about a woman called Money Breton. We follow her through her everyday life while navigating her wildly varying thoughts.
Let us know what other books you would recommend for lovers of Dept. of Speculation!