Renata Adler’s Speedboat, as reviewed by Kevin Thomas
So what are you reading right now?
I just finished Renata Adler’s Speedboat. I’m completely addicted to the New York Review of Books Classics’ reissues.
They’re very handsome.
They’re beautiful and I’m a sucker for that.
And one after the next they seem to be exciting for me to read. One thing I like about them is that they’re surprising. When you read new books, so often you’ve heard too much. You’ve been reading reviews because you can’t really stop yourself and someone else is reading it and you’re talking about it. Or you hear something like this [interview] when you go on Amazon. And you absorb a lot of information: it’s like seeing the trailer to the movie or something.
As a reader, I’m really addicted to being surprised. It’s a great method for me to read these reissued books that I don’t learn a lot about.
—Jonathan Lethem in conversation with Kevin Nguyen on Omnivoracious. Read the transcript of the entire interview here.
Over the weekend, Renata Adler was interviewed by Kurt Andersen on Studio 360. She discussed (and read from!) Speedboat and Pitch Dark. It is fantastic. Listen to the interview audio below or read the article here.
Oh, and while you’re at it, check out the Los Angeles Review of Books’ recent write-up on Speedboat here. Renata love all around!
“Day after day, when I still worked at the Forty-second Street branch of the public library, I saw the same young man, bearded, intense, cleaning his fingernails on the corners of the pages of a book. “What are you studying for?” I asked him once. The numbers were flashing over the counter as the books came up. “Research,” he said. “I’m writing my autobiography.” There are certainly odd people in that reading room—one who doodles the same bird endlessly on the back of a half of a single bank check, one who hums all the time, and one who keeps asking the other two to stop. A little pantomime concerto. I quit that job soon. The trouble is, I sometimes understand that research project. Or I did understand it. Then.”
Thanks to Molly McArdle, who in her latest Classic Returns column at Library Journal pulls out this passage from Renata Adler’s Speedboat.
And might we suggest the passage to anyone looking to participate in the Urban Librarians Unite–sponsored 24 Hour Read-In at the Brooklyn Public Library (or any other library read-ins).
“Whatever. Being neurotic seemed to be a kind of wild card, an all-purpose explanation.”
—Renata Adler, Speedboat
2. Renata Adler will be speaking at your friendly (Park Slope) neighborhood bookshop, Community, tonight at 7pm. I’ll see you there, k?
3. Do you subscribe to our newsletter? Yes? You’re awesome. No? You should! Because if you did, you would have received, in your inbox this morning, “Our Choral Ode to Renata Adler”:That bemused countenance, that horsewhip braid, that penchant for looking awry. Yep, we’re aswoon for Renata. Re-na-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Re. Na. Ta. We sketch her likeness in our spiral notebooks, adopt her patterns of speech, attempt her confident stance, wear belt-less jeans. We’d launch a 1,000 speedboats in her honor, if we had them. We don’t.
How good would that have made your morning? Sign up for our mailing list here here here here.
This gentleman was reading Renata Adler’s Speedboat on the Q train to work this morning. You can hear Renata live in the flesh tomorrow at 155 Freeman St., between Manhattan & Franklin Aves in Greenpoint, as part of the Issue Project Room “Littoral” event series, tomorrow at 8 p.m. She’ll be reading from her novels Speedboat and Pitch Dark, and talking with our editor Edwin Frank. If you’ve already read Renata’s books, you’ll know the talk could go something like this:
‘I shouldn’t have come,’ the Englishman said, waving his drink and breathing so heavily at me that I could feel my bangs shift. ‘I have a terrible cold.’
‘He would probably have married her,’ a voice across the room said, ‘with the exception that he died.’
‘Well, I am a personality that prefers not to be annoyed.’
‘We should all prepare ourselves for this eventuality.’
A six-year-old was passing the hors d’oeuvres. The baby, not quite steady on his feet, was hurtling about the room.
‘He’s following me,’ the six-year-old said, in despair.
‘Then lock yourself in the bathroom, dear,’ Inez replied.
‘He always waits outside the door.’
‘He loves you, dear.’
‘Well, I don’t like it.’
‘How I envy you,’ the minister’s wife was saying to a courteous, bearded boy, ‘reading Magic Mountain for the first time.’
“Well, you know. His wife was chased by an elephant.”
“Yes. it was too awful. They were watching the elephants, when she simply fell down. The elephant ran over and knelt on her. she was in the hospital for months.”
“Quite different from anything she ever got from Roger, I expect.”
“That ‘writers write’ is meant to be self-evident. People like to say it. I find it is hardly ever true. Writers drink. Writers rant. Writers phone. Writers sleep. I have met very few writers who write at all.”
—Renata Adler, Speedboat
Speedboat is structured like a clothesline, stringing together a series of anecdotes and musings, each quite unrelated to the last, complete with gaps in between. But somehow, and this is a curious achievement, the epigrams and parables have a common thread beyond the book’s own binding. The consciousness that narrates them somehow manages to seem a complete person hovering above, if not represented formally in the jagged edges of the book.
But we are starting to suspect that people will.
“Scrolling through news bits and status updates between passages of Speedboat, I’m floored by how the novel reads as a somewhat verbose Twitter feed. That is, verbose for Twitter. Succinct for anything else.”
In the Wake of Speedboat: On Renata Adler’s 1976 Novel by Eric Dean Wilson