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Kate Zambreno and Jenny Offill

Thursday June 26, 2014
07:00 pm

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                                     Photo credit: Michael Lionstar

Kate Zambreno and Jenny Offill read from and discussed their latest novels, Green Girl (Zambreno) and Dept of Speculation (Offill).

 

 

About Green Girl (HarperCollins)

 

With the fierce emotional and intellectual power of such classics as Jean Rhys’s Good Morning, Midnight, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, and Clarice Lispector’s The Hour of the Star, Kate Zambreno’s novel Green Girl is a provocative, sharply etched portrait of a young woman navigating the spectrum between anomie and epiphany.

 

First published in 2011 in a small press edition, Green Girl was named one of the best books of the year by critics including Dennis Cooper and Roxane Gay. In Bookforum, James Greer called it “ambitious in a way few works of fiction are.” This summer it is being republished in an all-new Harper Perennial trade paperback, significantly revised by the author, and including an extensive P.S. section including never before published outtakes, an interview with the author, and a new essay by Zambreno.

 

Zambreno’s heroine, Ruth, is a young American in London, kin to Jean Seberg gamines and contemporary celebutantes, by day spritzing perfume at the department store she calls Horrids, by night trying desperately to navigate a world colored by the unwanted gaze of others and the uncertainty of her own self-regard. Ruth, the green girl, joins the canon of young people existing in that important, frightening, and exhilarating period of drift and anxiety between youth and adulthood, and her story is told through the eyes of one of the most surprising and unforgettable narrators in recent fiction—a voice at once distanced and maternal, indulgent yet blackly funny. And the result is a piercing yet humane meditation on alienation, consumerism, the city, self-awareness, and desire, by a novelist who has been compared with Jean Rhys, Virginia Woolf, and Elfriede Jelinek.

 

 

About Dept. of Speculation (Knopf)

Dept. of Speculation is a portrait of a marriage. It is also a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all.

Jenny Offill’s heroine, referred to in these pages as simply “the wife,” once exchanged love letters with her husband postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty that inheres in life and in the strangely fluid confines of a long relationship. As they confront an array of common catastrophes—a colicky baby, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions—the wife analyzes her predicament, invoking everything from Keats and Kafka to the thought experiments of the Stoics to the lessons of doomed Russian cosmonauts. She muses on the consuming, capacious experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it as she confronts the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands of art.

With cool precision, in language that shimmers with rage and wit and fierce longing, Jenny Offill has crafted an exquisitely suspenseful love story that has the velocity of a train hurtling through the night at top speed. Exceptionally lean and compact, Dept. of Speculation is a novel to be devoured in a single sitting, though its bracing emotional insights and piercing meditations on despair and love will linger long after the last page.

 

 

Kate Zambreno has been named one of Jezebel’s “25 Kick-Ass and Amazing Women We Love,” and her nonfiction book, Heroines, a memoiristic exploration of the fates of the wives and myths of the twentieth century modernists, was recently named one of the 50 Books that Define the Last Five Years by Flavorwire, reviewed widely, including in the London Review of Books by novelist Sheila Heti, and on numerous best-of lists. She is also the author of the novel O Fallen Angel. She lives in Brooklyn and teaches in the writing programs at Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University.

 

Jenny Offill is the author of two novels, Dept. of Speculation and Last Things. She teaches in the writing programs at Columbia and Brooklyn College.