Excerpt from Weather by Jenny Offill, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Weather

by Jenny Offill

Weather by Jenny Offill X
Weather by Jenny Offill
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2020, 224 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2021, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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Print Excerpt

One

In the morning, the one who is mostly enlightened comes in. There are stages and she is in the second to last, she thinks. This stage can be described only by a Japanese word. "Bucket of black paint," it means.

I spend some time pulling books for the doomed adjunct. He has been working on his dissertation for eleven years. I give him reams of copy paper. Binder clips and pens. He is writing about a phi­losopher I have never heard of. He is minor, but instrumental, he told me. Minor but instrumental!

But last night, his wife put a piece of paper on the fridge. Is what you're doing right now making money? it said.

The man in the shabby suit does not want his fines lowered. He is pleased to contribute to our institu­tion. The blond girl whose nails are bitten to the quick stops by after lunch and leaves with a purse full of toilet paper.

I brave a theory about vaccinations and another about late capitalism. "Do you ever wish you were thirty again?" asks the lonely heart engineer. "No, never," I say. I tell him that old joke about going backward.

We don't serve time travelers here.
A time traveler walks into the bar.

On the way home, I pass the lady who sells whirl­ing things. Sometimes when the students are really stoned, they'll buy them. "No takers today," she says. I pick out one for Eli. It's blue and white, but blurs to blue in the wind. Don't forget quarters, I remember.

At the bodega, Mohan gives me a roll of them. I admire his new cat, but he tells me it just wan­dered in. He will keep it though because his wife no longer loves him.

"I wish you were a real shrink," my husband says.
"Then we'd be rich."



Henry's late. And this after I took a car service so I wouldn't be. When I finally spot him, he's drenched. No coat, no umbrella. He stops at the corner, gives change to the woman in the trash- bag poncho.

My brother told me once that he missed drugs because they made the world stop calling to him. Fair enough, I said. We were at the supermarket. All around us things tried to announce their true nature. But their radiance was faint and fainter still beneath the terrible music.

I try to get him warmed up quickly: soup, coffee. He looks good, I think. Clear- eyed. The waitress makes a new pot, flirts with him. People used to stop my mother on the street. What a waste, they'd say. Eyelashes like that on a boy!

So now we have extra bread. I eat three pieces while my brother tells me a story about his NA meeting. A woman stood up and started ranting about antidepressants. What upset her most was that people were not disposing of them properly. They tested worms in the city sewers and found they contained high concentrations of Paxil and Prozac.

When birds ate these worms, they stayed closer to home, made more elaborate nests, but appeared unmotivated to mate. "But were they happier?" I ask him. "Did they get more done in a given day?"



The window in our bedroom is open. You can see the moon if you lean out and crane your neck. The Greeks thought it was the only heavenly object similar to Earth. Plants and animals fifteen times stronger than our own inhabited it.

My son comes in to show me something. It looks like a pack of gum, but it's really a trick. When you try to take a piece, a metal spring snaps down on your finger. "It hurts more than you think," he warns me.

Ow.

I tell him to look out the window. "That's a waxing crescent," Eli says. He knows as much now about the moon as he ever will, I suspect. At his old school, they taught him a song to remember all its phases. Sometimes he'll sing it for us at dinner, but only if we do not request it.

The moon will be fine, I think. No one's worrying about the moon.



The woman with the bullhorn is at the school door this morning. She's warning the parents not to go in, to leave the children there behind the red line. "Safety first!" she yells. "Safety first!"

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Excerpted from Weather by Jenny Offill. Copyright © 2020 by Jenny Offill. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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