Librarian Lizzie Benson lives a pretty ordinary life in New York City with her husband Ben and son Eli. What’s happening around her, however, is anything but. Climate change, Trump, threats to democracy, artificial intelligence, drug addiction – there’s plenty to worry about. How to absorb it all while going on living is the question. Weather by Jenny Offill puts words to what it’s like to live right now and thanks to her playful, fragmented writing style, this book is not nearly as depressing as it sounds.
As a side job, Lizzie answers emails sent to a famous environmental podcast fittingly named Hell and High Water. Clearly, she is not alone in struggling to understand all that goes on.
People Also Ask
What will disappear from stores first?
Why do humans need myths?
Do we live in the Anthropocene?
What is the cultural trance?
Is it wrong to eat meat?
What is surveillance capitalism?
How can we save the bees?
What is the internet of things?
When will humans go extinct?
It’s not that Lizzie herself is propelled to act. In fact, she seems, like many people, to be paralysed. In emergencies ‘eighty percent just freeze’, she reflects. On top, she trying to keep her recovering drug addict bother Henry on the straight and narrow and looking after her son and mother. Who has time to save the world? And how?
The absurd doesn’t seem so absurd anymore. Ben and Lizzie find themselves discussing their ‘doomstead’ (‘arable land, a water source, high on a hill’) and wonder whether or not their son should ever have a child? Yes but ‘it will never know the taste of meat.’ And what about their country? Is it at peace or at war? ‘…it feels the way it does just before it starts’, a war reporter tells Lizzie.
Offill’s writing comes in short paragraphs – observations, jokes, conversations – jumping from one topic to another. It’s writing that requires concentration as the clue often lies in what remains unsaid. Fans of Offill’s last book Dept of Speculation (which I loved) will want to read this book, although I’m not sure Weather is quite as good. For me, the fragmented nature of Offill’s prose suited a narrow subject like a relationship. The topics in this book are harder to nail down. There’s nevertheless something clever and worthwhile about Weather which touches a nerve we should all pay attention to.
Weather by Jenny Offill is published by Granta, 201 pages.