If there’s a good literary news story everyday, somewhere, there’s definitely a good one behind the publication of a new comic cli-fi novel in New York and the author who gave birth to it.
Have you seen the rave reviews already online for ”Weather” by Jenny Offill? A quick Google search will show you several already. “That hum in the air about climate change” was one headline about the book.
The literary world is buzzing, from the New York Times (five reviews on different days by five different staff critics), the Los Angeles Times, NPR, New Statesman, Time magazine and The Washington Post. Every review was a glowing thumbs up for this small novel that tackles climate change head on in a stylish, existential way.
Even in London, the Evening Standard’s reviewer Phoebe Luckhurst reached across the Pond and called it ”a cli-fi novel” that is a perfect read in these unstable times of wildfires and floods.
Offill, now a literary rock star in New York and London, was born in 1968 and grew up as the only daughter of two teachers. She spent her childhood years in various places with her parents, including Massachusetts, California, Indiana, and North Carolina. Some internet rumors said that she was Jewish, but sources in the book industry corrected that rumor and told this blogger that Ms. Offill is not Jewish, but is married to a Jewish man. And in her new book, a character named Ben is Jewish. So there’s that.
In the novel’s story arc, Lizzie’s husband, Ben, who is Jewish as I just noted, is very worried about where America is headed with a president Trump in power, and after the 2016 elections, readers learn that “Ben looks into the Israel thing; and I look into the idea of true north.”
This means that Ben, who is an American Jew with liberal attitudes about life and politics, is so worried about what might happen with Trump in power that is looking into making ”aliyah” to Israel, which means he is thinking about giving up his American nationality and becoming an Israeli citizen.
But while Ben thinks of emigrating to Israel for safety’s sake, his non-Jewish wife Lizzie wants to “look into the idea of the true north.” That means she is thinking of getting out of the Lower 48 and heading up north to Canada.
All-in-all, the novel is a fun, comic and thoughtful novel about climate change, ”and a deeply necessary one,” says one reviewer. And an editor in the book industry, Katie Adams, sent out a tweet on Twitter regarding Weather, saying:“[Offill] will not make you feel safe. She will make you feel less alone.”
I will give the last word to book reviewer Phoebe Luckhurst in London: ”Climate fiction, or cli-fi, is a genre on the rise — rather like sea levels. Jenny Offill’s ‘Weather’ is surely the strangest, most charming entry yet into this emerging canon: a curious, dreamy book that is both a portrait of a polarized world (featuring preppers, doom-mongers and Twitter cowboys) and a small, intimate portrait of Lizzie Benson, a librarian.”
”Call it cli-fi, or doom-fi,” Luckhurst quipped.