Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the Ernest Hemingway Prize for Best First Novel in 1976
It has been more than thirty-five years since Renata Adler’s Speedboat charged through the literary establishment, blasting genre walls and pointing the way for a newly liberated way of writing. This unclassifiable work is simultaneously novel, memoir, commonplace book, confession, and critique. It is the story of every man and woman cursed with too much consciousness and too little comprehension, and it is the story of Jen Fein, a journalist negotiating the fraught landscape of contemporary urban America. Her voice is cuttingly perceptive, darkly funny, and always fiercely intelligent as she breaks narrative convention to send dispatches back from the world as she finds it.
This new edition of Speedboat will include an interview between Renata Adler and Guy Trebay discussing the genesis and composition of the book.
“Renata Adler's collage novel Speedboat captivates by its jagged and frenetic changes of pitch and tone and voice. She confides, reflects, tells a story, aphorizes, undercuts the aphorism, then undercuts that. If she's cryptic in one paragraph, she's clear in the next. She changes subjects like a brilliant schizophrenic, making irrational sense. She's intimate: bed talk uninhibited by conventions. Ideas, experiences, and emotions are inseparable. I don't know what she'll say next. She tantalizes by being simultaneously daring and elusive. The book builds: images recur, ideas are interwoven, names reappear. Paragraphs are miniature stories. She's always present, teasing things apart, but not from a distance. There's very little that's abstract. I can feel her breathe.” David Shields
“It is perhaps the best portrait we have of contemporary urban life among the intellectual gentry.” The Los Angeles Times
“Elegant, funny, vivid, brilliant, luminous, exquisite!” The New York Times Book Review
“Nobody in this country writes better than Renata Adler. She is Lillian Hellman, young again; Joan Didion with a tendency to giggle; Albert Camus on one of his sunny days...Speedboat is superb.” Harper’s
"She is one of the most brilliant — that is, vivid, intense, astute, and penetrating — essayists in contemporary letters, and most contrarian: much of what you think she will passionately undo. And she is a novelist whose voice, even decades after her books were written, seems new and original, and, if you are a writer, one you wish were your own." Michael Wolff, The Guardian
“I think Speedboat will find a new generation of dazzled readers.” Slate
"Speedboat is as vital a document of the last half of the American century as Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Right down to its final, just-right sentence, it's — well, it will literally knock your socks off." Chicago Tribune
“Nobody writes better prose than Renata Adler.” Vanity Fair
burst on the scene in the late ’70s it was like nothing readers had encountered before. It seemed to disregard the rules of the novel, but it wore its unconventionality with ease. Reading it was a pleasure of a new, unexpected kind. Above all, there was its voice, ambivalent, curious, wry, the voice of Jen Fain, a journalist negotiating the fraught landscape of contemporary urban America. Party guests, taxi drivers, brownstone dwellers, professors, journalists, presidents, and debutantes fill these dispatches from the world as Jen finds it.
A touchstone over the years for writers as different as David Foster Wallace and Elizabeth Hardwick, Speedboat returns to enthrall a new generation of readers.
About the Author
Renata Adler was born in Milan and raised in Connecticut. She received a B.A. from Bryn Mawr, an M.A. from Harvard, a D.d’E.S. from the Sorbonne, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and an LL.D. (honorary) from Georgetown. Adler became a staff writer at The New Yorker
in 1963 and, except for a year as the chief film critic of The New York Times
, remained at The New Yorker
for the next four decades. Her books include A Year in the Dark
(1969); Toward a Radical Middle
(1970); Reckless Disregard: Westmoreland v. CBS et al., Sharon v. Time
(1986); Canaries in the Mineshaft
(2001); Gone: The Last Days of
The New Yorker (1999); Irreparable Harm: The U.S. Supreme Court and The Decision That Made George W. Bush President
(2004); and the novels Speedboat
(1976; winner of the Ernest Hemingway Award for Best First Novel) and Pitch Dark
Guy Trebay reports on culture for The New York Times. He was previously a columnist for The Village Voice and has written for The New Yorker, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel and Leisure, Harper’s, Esquire, Grand Street, and other major publications. His work, twice honored with the Meyer Berger Award, presented by the Columbia University School of Journalism, has received numerous other awards, been widely anthologized, and was collected in In The Place to Be: Guy
Trebay’s New York.