Richard Avedon, Renata Adler, April 1975, Patmos, Greece, © The Richard Avedon Foundation.
In celebration of her recently back in print novels Speedboat and Pitch Dark, author Renata Adler reads from both works followed by a conversation with NYRB Classics editor Edwin Frank.
When Speedboat (1976) 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.
Pitch Dark (1983) is a book of questions, a book of false starts, red herrings, misunderstandings, and lightning revelations. It is a book about love. Kate Ennis is poised at a critical moment in an affair with a married man. The complications and contradictions pursue her from a house in rural Connecticut to a brownstone apartment in New York City, to a small island off the coast of Washington, to a pitch black night in backcountry Ireland. And no matter where Kate goes or what she does, she confronts the mystery and inscrutability of others, and herself.
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 (1983).