Leslie Jamison on Jenny Offill’s ‘Weather’
Jenny Offill’s third novel, “Weather,” balances concerns about the slow apocalypse of climate change with the daily texture of the narrator’s life as a Brooklyn wife and mother who works as a university librarian. Leslie Jamison reviews it on the cover of this week’s Book Review, and visits the podcast to talk about the novel and Offill’s work in general.
“She writes about motherhood and marriage and things that can get lumped under that general umbrella term ‘domesticity,’ but she brings them to life in these incredibly razor-sharp ways,” Jamison says. “And there shouldn’t even be a ‘but’ conjunction in that sentence, right — like, why are those states of being not razor sharp, somehow? But sometimes they can get seen as soft or sentimental. And she brings both a very different form and a very different tone to how she writes about them and how she does justice to their emotional extremity.”
“In this latest book, the scales are even bigger because among other things it’s a book about climate change, which is one of the biggest scales. … Yes, the world is ending, but also you wake up in the morning and touch base with your brother over text to make sure he and the baby are doing O.K., and both of those are real and both of those are happening,” Jamison continues. “One of the challenges of writing about climate change is how to take this thing that is essentially on a larger scale than our minds can hold and how to make it a narrative that our minds can hold. … Climate change isn’t quite on a human scale, but narrative is on a human scale, so how do you translate that?”
Courtney Maum visits the podcast to discuss “Before and After the Book Deal,” her guide for writers publishing their first book. “We’re in a culture where there’s a lot of books and M.F.A. programs and summer conferences that teach you how to write and learn to revise well enough to get a book deal,” Maum says. “But the minute you realize your dream and you actually do get a book deal, there’s nothing. There’s not a lot of resources. There’s certainly no books about it. And the conversations that you do have are a little loaded and icky. … So I wanted to put something out there for people who are navigating this immense privilege that nevertheless leaves you pretty raw and vulnerable.”
Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Gregory Cowles, Tina Jordan and Dave Kim talk about what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host.
Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:
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