So Many Damn Books on Jenny Offill’s Weather
A Special Episode with Host Christopher Hermelin and His Wife Sarah Yurch
Host Christopher and his wife Sarah are social distancing/self-isolating, so they record an episode (sans Drew) about Jenny Offill’s oddly prophetic Weather. They discuss the grim, fascinating distance of Offill’s voice, and can’t stop drawing parallels from her muted disaster/emergency to our own. Plus, they get a little bit into how books are the foundation of their relationship.
What is Thin Places?
Christopher: I knew that the book would be related since I’ve seen that take on Twitter. What’d you think of it?
Sarah: What I loved about it is that it’s sort of a constant simmer but it never quite boils over. In the same way that it’s about looming environmental collapse, there are also a lot of personal crises that are just on the verge of happening. A near affair, someone who has substance addiction and their sobriety is precarious, but it doesn’t edge off into that full on catastrophe, which I thought was so interesting. From the way we’re talking about it, it’s sounds like a much more stressful read than it is. It is sort of calm.
Christopher: There’s a sort of inevitability. Even to her near affair, that was always going to happen that way. She just observed it. She has that remove. When I first read Dept of Speculation I was reacting negatively to that remove, and also because I had just read Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, and that was the first time that I’d seen this sort of flash fiction/short fiction/poetry/pose style of some artistic thought, some scientific thought all sort of wended together into a narrative. So, having read Bluets and having my mind blown as many people do—
Sarah: Hell yeah.
Christopher: —then reading Dept of Speculation, it didn’t have the same thing, and it’s not trying to.
Sarah: It’s not the same thing at all.
Christopher: This time, I knew what I was in for, and I loved it. Even though it doesn’t have what you might think of as a climax, it still has a shape, it still has tension.
Sarah: The stakes are still high. There’s a part of the book where she distinguishes an emergency from a disaster, and it’s something I’ve been keeping with me over the past couple of weeks, living as we are right now.
“A disaster is a sudden event that causes great damage or loss. An emergency is a situation in which normal operations cannot continue and immediate action is required so as to prevent a disaster.”
Christopher: So it turns out you have little emergencies every day during disasters that last a long time.
Sarah: Yeah. I thought it was an interesting distinction.
Christopher: There’s so many techno-prophet moments.
This Episode’s Recommendations:
Sarah’s pick: Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein // BookBenefactors.com—nominate someone to receive books or donate money to sponsor a book delivery
Christopher’s picks: Support indies directly or Bookshop.org, and Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here
This week’s themed cocktail: