New York Review of Books, Paperback, 9781590176139, 192pp.
Publication Date: March 19, 2013
When Speedboat 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.
“Told by Jen Frain, a journalist, Speedboat is a fragmentary and frequently hilarious novel about what it was to be an urban American in the 1970s. Here we have a narrator whose “I” looks out, not in. Frain describes her friends and work so keenly that at times she is almost effaced from her own narrative. In the space opened up by this near absence, Adler achieves a prose that, despite the odd bum note, sounds disaffected and despondent and charismatic all at once. ‘There doesn’t seem to be a spirit of the times,’ says Frain. But in Adler we sense the very crystallisation of one.” —The Irish Times
"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.” —Katie Roiphe, 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." —Michael Robbins, Chicago Tribune
“Speedboat captivates by its jagged and frenetic changes of pitch and tone and voice. Adler confides, reflects, tells a story, aphorizes, undercuts the aphorism, then undercuts that. Ideas, experiences, and emotions are inseparable. I don’t know what she’ll say next. She tantalizes by being simultaneously daring and elusive.” —David Shields, Reality Hunger
“Nobody writes better prose than Renata Adler.” —John Leonard, Vanity Fair
“A brilliant series of glimpses into the special oddities and new terrors of contemporary life—abrupt, painful, and altogether splendid.” —Donald Barthelme