Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Jenny Offill’s “Dept. of Speculation” is a thousand small moments of rage, beauty, grief and joy.

In its few pages, it captures the overpowering emotional resonance of everyday existence.

It explores the fluidity of relationships – whether they are between husband and wife or mother and child.

It illustrates how even the smallest of anxieties can become all-consuming, how the most trivial of defeats can vanquish us.

Offill writes about feelings and thoughts with such depth that she elevates average introspection into wisdom.

She reveals what we are at our core.

This story is told in a stream of consciousness. It ebbs and flows gently, pulling the reader along without ever becoming exhausting.

Every element of the main character’s story compliments the next to create a beautifully insightful book.

The main character is a woman novelist.

She gets married.

She becomes a mother.

She fails to write a second book.

She takes a job as a ghost writer.

She is consumed with remorse at her own inability to create.

She fails.

She succeeds.

She settles.

She tries to get by.

She examines the world with wit and brevity.

She experiences her emotions with such clarity that it is almost terrifying.

She, like most of us, is muddled in her ability to understand herself and how she ended up where she did.

She is someone we can all relate to.

She is, in part, all of us.

“Dept. of Speculation” is a simple yet elegant little novel that is nothing short of stunning.

Unable to stop, I devoured this book within 24 hours. I couldn’t help but admire each turn of phrase, the clever humor and the graceful construction of her being.

Truly, my only regret about this book is that like all good things, it had to end.

When your day is inconceivable, pick up an old favorite

Sword fights. Giants. Revenge. Rodents of Unusual Size (R.O.U.S). Princesses of great beauty. Princes of great evil. Pirates. Riddles. “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman is the grandest and funniest adventure you’ll ever embark upon.

The book begins with Goldman explaining how his dad read him “The Princess Bride” when he was young, and as an adult, he seeks it out only to discover that his dad skipped over pages and pages of boring history, description and explanations just to give him the “good parts,” which are the meat – the drama, the magic, fights to the death, the course of true love.

So as an adult, Goldman decides to abridge it. Now, everyone can enjoy the book in its purest form as he did, without all the boring bits. Throughout the book, he puts his abridging remarks inside the story, amusing comments on the characters, their lives or his construction of the book from its original.

Don’t be fooled by his great sense of humor though – this is all just a part of the book, a story within a story and a large part of the fun.

The tale within the tale begins in the land of Florin with a stunningly beautiful girl, Buttercup, 17, who lives on a farm with her parents and the farm boy, Westley. Buttercup falls in love with Westley, only to discover he loves her as well.

Upon knowing his love is reciprocated, Westley goes off to seek his fortune; but his ship is taken by pirates, he is presumed dead and Buttercup is heartbroken.

Soon after, Prince Humperdinck, in his search for a wife, sweeps Buttercup off to his castle. Despite her promise to never love him, she is to be his bride.

Resigned to her fate, Buttercup finds solace in her solitary rides. One day, Princess Buttercup comes upon three men: Vizzini the Sicilian, who has a slight hunch to his back but the quickest mind you’ll ever challenge; the Spaniard Inigo Montoya, slender and quick with a sword at his side and a thirst for revenge against a unknown six-fingered man who murdered his father; and Turkish giant Fezzik, who loves rhymes.

The kidnapped Buttercup awakens on a boat heading toward the Cliffs of Insanity, where she soon learns the men have been paid to leave her dead body to start a war between Florin and its neighbor Guilder.

As they arrive at the Cliffs of Insanity, the trio and Buttercup realize they are not alone. They are being pursued by a man in black, and though it seems inconceivable, he catches up and challenges them all one by one to get what he truly wants – Buttercup.

This is really only the beginning. Like any great adventure, there is so much more to come – fire swamps, killer rodents, battles of wits and battles to the death. There may even be a miracle or two.

Goldman keeps us enthralled and chuckling throughout his book, which in case you’re wondering, yes, is better than the movie. (But actually, the movie didn’t do too bad a job. It’s one of my favorite books-into-films.)

Over the years, I’ve read “The Princess Bride” again and again, whenever sickness has me bedridden or I need a good laugh. It is one of the most enjoyable books you’ll ever pick up.

And if you don’t read it to find out whether Buttercup lives, whether Inigo gets his revenge or whether the Prince is vanquished, then you can always read it for the rhymes. That Fezzik is quite talented.

Reopening Room 217

“FEAR stands for fuck everything and run.” 

Dan Torrance escaped the Overlook hotel with his mother when he was a child, but he could not escape the shining.

Dan eventually learns to lock away the rotting corpses that haunt him, but as he grows up, he cannot lock away his need to drink. For years, he follows in his father’s footsteps, trying to black out the shining with liquor. He tries to bury the horrors and despair in bottles and pitchers.

You’d think this is when they would take him, when he is weak. When he is at his bottom.

But it is years later, when Dan is sober and working at a hospice as “Doctor Sleep,” using his shining to help people die in peace, that evil finds him again.

The True Knot travels across America’s highways in RVs and Winnebagos with cheery bumper stickers, canes and polyester suits. Looking like typical retirees roaming through truck stops and tourist traps, they scour the country for special children. Children who shine.

They torture; they maim. They slowly devour the children with shining and eat the “steam” which comes out of them when they are dying.

The steam helps the True Knot stay alive as they keep roaming and killing. They are almost immortal, until they meet Abra Stone.

Abra has a shining so great that she reaches out to Dan when she is only a couple months old. She shines right into his mind while he is sitting at an AA meeting, beginning a relationship that slowly develops as she grows older.

Though Abra makes spoons stick to the ceiling and music play in the air, her shining isn’t something to be dealt with until she witnesses a boy’s murder at the hands of the True Knot. As she watches them lick his blood off their hands, they sense her.

And once they know Abra exists, a little girl with a shining so bright they can feel it across the country, they have to have her. To eat her.

This long-awaited sequel to “The Shining” is a gruesome and exciting thriller that any reader who feared the woman in Room 217 will enjoy. Anyone who wishes for a little more REDRUM. Anyone who still dreams about the hedges moving when they are alone in bed at night.

“Doctor Sleep” by Stephen King is about what happens after the nightmare is over. Or when you think it’s over because it doesn’t really end.

It follows you home.