INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER
From the beloved author of the nationwide best seller Dept. of Speculation—one of the New York Times Book Review''s Ten Best Books of the Year—a “darkly funny and urgent” (NPR) tour de force about a family, and a nation, in crisis
Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree. But this gives her a vantage point from which to practice her other calling: she is a fake shrink. For years she has tended to her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but Lizzie has little chance to spend her new free time with husband and son before her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. Sylvia has become famous for her prescient podcast,
Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: 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. When her brother becomes a father and Sylvia a recluse, Lizzie is forced to address the limits of her own experience—but still she tries to save everyone, using everything she''s learned about empathy and despair, conscience and collusion, from her years of wandering the library stacks . . . And all the while the voices of the city keep floating in—funny, disturbing, and increasingly mad.
“Offill’s fragmentary structure evokes an unbearable emotional intensity: something at the core of the story that cannot be narrated directly, by straight chronology, because to do so would be like looking at the sun…” —The New York Times
One of the Wall Street Journal Magazine’s 10 must-read books this winter
Lit Hub’s “14 Books You Should Read in February”
Esquire.com''s “Best Books of 2020”
AV Club''s “5 New Books to Read in February,”
New York Times'' “14 New Books to Watch in February,”
Thrillist''s “21 Books We Can’t wait to Read in 2020,”
Good Housekeeping''s “20 Best Books of 2020,”
PureWow''s “13 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in February.”
Lit Hub – “14 Book You Should Read in February”
Vulture – “11 Notable New Releases”
Entertainment Weekly – “20 New Books to Read in February”
Hello Giggles – “11 Best New Books to Read in February”
Bustle – “22 Most Anticipated Books of February”
“Brilliant… Offill’s writing is brisk and comic, and her book’s format underlines her gifts. “Weather” is her most soulful book… [Her] humor is saving humor; it’s as if she’s splashing vinegar to deglaze a pan.”
—The New York Times
"Jenny Offill is the master of novels told in sly, burnished fragments... In Offill’s hands, the form becomes something new, a method of distilling experience into its brightest, most blazing forms — atoms of intense feeling... these fragments feel like: teeming worlds suspended in white space, entire novels condensed into paragraphs... What she is doing is coming as close as anyone ever has to writing the very nature of being itself... “Weather” transforms the novel of consciousness into a record of climate grief."
--Parul Sehgal, The New York Times profile
“Time flies by in this wry story of a family—librarian Lizzie, her classics buff husband, their son, and her brother, a recovering addict. Apocalypse (climate and otherwise) looms over the narrative, and yet it is funny and hopeful too.”
“We named Offill''s previous novel, the shrewd and genre-destroying
Dept. of Speculation, as a book every woman should read; this follow-up, a sort of spiritual sequel, solidifies the author''s place among the vanguard of writers who are reinvigorating literature.”
--O The Oprah Magazine
“Compact and wholly contemporary, Jenny Offill’s third novel sees a librarian find deep meaning and deep despair in her side gig as an armchair therapist for those in existential crisis, including liberals fearing climate apocalypse and conservatives fearing the demise of ‘American values.’ As she attempts to save everyone, our protagonist is driven to her limits, making for a canny, comic story about the power of human need.”
“Tiny in size but immense in scope, radically disorienting yet reassuringly humane, strikingly eccentric and completely irresistible…utterly exhilarating in its wit and intelligence…luminous.”
--The Boston Globe
"Genius... [A] lapidary masterwork... Remarkable and resonant... The right novel for the end of the world."
--The LA Times
"Another perfectly wonderful trip inside the mind of Jenny Offill... [Her] fiction is such a pleasure to read... the funniness of many of her sentences indicates how precisely she calibrates them."
“Ptent... Offill is a master of the glancing blow."
“Glorious, dizzying, disconcerting and often laugh-out-loud hysterical”
"Always wry and wise. Offill offers an acerbic observer with a wide-ranging mind in this marvelous novel.
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Clever and seductive . . . the "weather" of our days both real and metaphorical, is perfectly captured in Offill''s brief, elegant paragraphs, filled with insight and humor. Offill is good company for the end of the world."
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Revelatory . . . Offill, who will delight fans of Lydia Davis and Joy Williams, performs breathtaking emotional and social distillation in this pithy and stealthily resonant tale of a woman trying to keep others, and herself, from "tipping into the abyss."
--Booklist (starred review)
“This is so good. We are not ready nor worthy.”
"Jenny Offill writes beautiful sentences; she is also a deft curator of silences. It’s this counterpoint of eloquence and felt absence that enables her to register the emotional and political weather of our present."
"No one writes about the intersection of love and existential despair like Jenny Offill."
"Jenny Offill conjures entire worlds with her steady, near-pointillist technique. One feels a whole heaving, breathing universe behind her every line. Dread, the sensation of sinking, lostness, and being cast away from any sense of safety infiltrates every interaction and private moment in this book, like ashes from the burning world she describes."
“Novelists don’t need to dream the end of the world anymore—they need to wake up to it. Jenny Offill is one of today’s few essential voices, because she writes about essential things, in sentences so clipped and glittering it’s as if they are all cut from one diamond.”
Weather is a beautiful book, both subtle and powerful. In writing, that’s a superhuman feat. And now is exactly when we need the superhumans. Make haste. Read it."
"There is no doubt that Jenny Offill is the writer for this particular historical moment.
Weather is a tour de force of her considerable and startling gifts: the compressed and gorgeous sentences, the astounding comic timing, the profound and wise surprises. The miracle of this novel is how it looks at our contradictions and conditions with such bracing honesty and yet gives us a tender hopefulness toward these fraught humans. Offill makes us feel implicated but also loved."
JENNY OFFILL is the author of the novels
Last Things (a
New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a finalist for the
Los Angeles Times First Fiction Award) and
Dept. of Speculation, which was shortlisted for the Folio Prize, the Pen-Faulkner Award, and the International Dublin Literary Award. She lives in upstate New York and teaches at Syracuse University and in the low-residency program at Queens University.
In the morning, the one who is mostly enlightened comes in. There are stages and she is in the second to last, she thinks. This stage can be described only by a Japanese word. “Bucket of black paint,” it means.
I spend some time pulling books for the doomed adjunct. He has been working on his dissertation for eleven years. I give him reams of copy paper. Binder clips and pens. He is writing about a philosopher I have never heard of. He is minor, but instrumental, he told me. Minor but instrumental!
But last night, his wife put a piece of paper on the fridge.
Is what you’re doing right now making money? it said.
The man in the shabby suit does not want his fines lowered. He is pleased to contribute to our institution. The blond girl whose nails are bitten to the quick stops by after lunch and leaves with a purse full of toilet paper.
I brave a theory about vaccinations and another about late capitalism. “Do you ever wish you were thirty again?” asks the lonely heart engineer. “No, never,” I say. I tell him that old joke about going backward.
We don’t serve time travelers here.
A time traveler walks into the bar.
On the way home, I pass the lady who sells whirling things. Sometimes when the students are really stoned, they’ll buy them. “No takers today,” she says. I pick out one for Eli. It’s blue and white, but blurs to blue in the wind. Don’t forget quarters, I remember.
At the bodega, Mohan gives me a roll of them. I admire his new cat, but he tells me it just wandered in. He will keep it though because his wife no longer loves him.
“I wish you were a real shrink,” my husband says.
“Then we’d be rich.”
Henry’s late. And this after I took a car service so I wouldn’t be. When I finally spot him, he’s drenched. No coat, no umbrella. He stops at the corner, gives change to the woman in the trash- bag poncho.
My brother told me once that he missed drugs because they made the world stop calling to him. Fair enough, I said. We were at the supermarket. All around us things tried to announce their true nature. But their radiance was faint and fainter still beneath the terrible music.
I try to get him warmed up quickly: soup, coffee. He looks good, I think. Clear- eyed. The waitress makes a new pot, flirts with him. People used to stop my mother on the street. What a waste, they’d say. Eyelashes like that on a boy!
So now we have extra bread. I eat three pieces while my brother tells me a story about his NA meeting. A woman stood up and started ranting about antidepressants. What upset her most was that people were not disposing of them properly. They tested worms in the city sewers and found they contained high concentrations of Paxil and Prozac.
When birds ate these worms, they stayed closer to home, made more elaborate nests, but appeared unmotivated to mate. “But were they happier?” I ask him. “Did they get more done in a given day?”
The window in our bedroom is open. You can see the moon if you lean out and crane your neck. The Greeks thought it was the only heavenly object similar to Earth. Plants and animals fifteen times stronger than our own inhabited it.
My son comes in to show me something. It looks like a pack of gum, but it’s really a trick. When you try to take a piece, a metal spring snaps down on your finger. “It hurts more than you think,” he warns me.
I tell him to look out the window. “That’s a wax-ing crescent,” Eli says. He knows as much now about the moon as he ever will, I suspect. At his old school, they taught him a song to remember all its phases. Sometimes he’ll sing it for us at din-ner, but only if we do not request it.
The moon will be fine, I think. No one’s worrying about the moon.
The woman with the bullhorn is at the school door this morning. She’s warning the parents not to go in, to leave the children there behind the red line. “Safety first!” she yells. “Safety first!”
But sometimes Eli cries if he’s left in that loud scrum of people. He doesn’t like having to walk alone from one side of that huge cafeteria to the other. Once he froze in the middle until some aide grabbed him by the elbow and pushed him toward his corner.
So today we make a run for it and dart past her to his assigned assembly point. His friend is at the table and has animal crackers, so I make it out of there without tears, but not before the bullhorn woman screams at me. “No parents! No parents may accompany their children!”
God, she loves that bullhorn. Something shoots through my body at the sound of her voice, then I’m out on the street again, telling myself not to think.
I’m not allowed to think about how big this school is or how small he is. I’ve made that mistake after other drop-offs. I should be used to it by now, but sometimes I get spooked all over again.
All day long cranky professors. I swear the ones with tenure are the crankiest. They will cut past other people in line to check out a book or set up their hold list. Studies have shown that 94% of college professors think that they do above average work.
They gave us a guide the other day.
Tips for Dealing with Problem Patrons. The professors weren’t mentioned. There were the following categories.
But how to categorize this elderly gentleman who keeps asking me to give him the password for his own email? I try to explain that it is not possible for me to know this, that only he knows this, but he just shakes his head in that indignant way that means, What kind of help desk is this?
There’s a poster of Sylvia at the bus stop. It says she’s coming to give a talk on campus. Years ago, I was her grad student, but then I gave up on it. She used to check in on me sometimes to see if I was still squandering my promise. The answer was always yes. Finally, she pulled some strings to
get me this job even though I don’t have a proper degree for it.
On the way home, I listen to her new podcast
. This episode is called “The Center Cannot Hold.” They could all be called that. But Sylvia’s voice is almost worth the uptick in dread. It’s soothing to me even though she talks only of the invisible horsemen galloping toward us.
There are recognizable patterns of ascent and decline. But our industrial civilization is so vast, it has such reach . . .
I look out the window. Something in the distance, limping toward the trees.
The door opens and Eli hurls himself at me. I help him peel some rubber cement off his hands, then he goes back to his game. This is the one that everyone likes. It is a 3-D procedurally generated world, according to my husband. Educational.
It’s fun to watch them play. They put together buildings block by block, then fill the rooms with minerals that they have mined with pickaxes they have made. They assemble green fields and raise chickens to eat. “I killed one!” Eli yells. “It’s almost night,” Ben tells him.
There are bills and supermarket flyers. Also a magazine addressed to a former tenant. The cover promises tips for helping depressive people.
I’m sorry that you’re in so much pain. I am not going to leave you. I am going to take care of myself, so you don’t need to worry that your pain might hurt me.
not to say:
Have you tried chamomile tea?