Weather by Jenny Offill

5 comments

I read (or, rather, listened to) this novel because of a conversation between Offill and David Naimon, the host of the “Between the Covers” podcast. You can listen to it here: https://tinhouse.com/podcast/jenny-offill-weather/

This is a story of family where the central character, Lizzie Benson, in the course of living life (as a daughter of a mother who needs a little looking after, sister of a brother who needs a lot of looking after, mother of her own young child, wife, and library employee) becomes immersed in the subject of climate change. Offill says that the jumping off point for this book was this question: What does it mean to take care of people? How could she write a survival manual for her daughter?

One can read this book purely at the level of story, and enjoy the read. The characters are good and interesting people to spend some time with. Lizzie’s humor shines through moments of darkness. I, mean, you gotta love someone who works at the library, right? Or as a reader you can also thing more deeply about what’s written here. When Lizzie is so busy worrying about the people in her own sphere, can she also worry about the world? Offill says the lack of embodiment of the non-human world is a difficulty of writing about climate. Our stories are so human-centric or human-exclusive. How do we “stay with the trouble” when we want to talk about anything else?

Here’s something I think this group will like. Offill likes to play what she calls “Library Roulette” at libraries that have kept their books for a long time. She wanders around, but not in the fiction or poetry sections (areas of knowledge for her), and pulls out books that catch her attention. She flips through them and decides whether she wants to delve deeper, reading and noting excerpts or the whole texts.

After she finished Weather, Offill had material that did not make the book. What could she do with it, and what could she do about this world we live in? Well, she created a website: https://www.obligatorynoteofhope.com/ Here, you will find tips for trying times and stories of people of conscience. Check it out sometime…soon.

5 comments on “Weather by Jenny Offill”

    1. A fiction, or nonfiction writer for that matter, has to enjoy research. Offill says she also uses oblique strategy cards, which I hadn’t heard of.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Fascinating, Teri, all of it. And now I have explore oblique strategy cards. Would love to wander through that box. Heading to the website you linked now…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the review. The interview gave me lots of “food for thought.” The problem of taking care of the everyday while at the same time meeting the major challenges in the world today with some kind of positive action is definitely a struggle. The waiting list at the library is long, but I am on it.

    Liked by 1 person

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