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Speedboat Paperback – February, 1988


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Paperback, February, 1988
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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Harpercollins (February 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060971436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060971434
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,500,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Adler's novels concede the necessity of making fiction quicker, more terse, descriptively less elaborate than the traditional thing called a novel, not so much in deference to shrunken attention spans, but as the most plausible way of rendering the distracted, fragmentary quality of contemporary consciousness [...] They describe what it's like to be living now, during this span of time, in our particular country and our particular world. This is what the best novels have always done, and with any luck will continue to do. —Gary Indiana --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

Renata Adler's first novel, 'Speedboat" ... is that kind of book. The kind you buy multiple copies of to push on friends, the kind you dog-ear and mark up until it could line a hamster cage. A talisman, a weapon, a touchstone. ... I don't press "The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge" or "Beyond Good and Evil" on people anymore. But that's the kind of book that kind of book is, burning in your thoughts, a grass fire, consuming the air. ... Right down to its final, just-right sentence, it's -- well, it will literally knock your socks off. Read it. - Michael Robbins, Chicago Tribune

 Aftter years of being passed along to new readers like samizdat pamphlet. ... These are not works of realism--they have a dreamlike quality-- but they contain as much reality as a Balzac novel does. It's just that their reality is incantatory, sparse, periodically blazing. ...  one of the more penetrating and oddly hypnotizing books I know; reading it is like being in a snowstorm. ...If all you get from "Speedboat" and "Pitch Dark" is a shudder of pleasure and self-recognition, you are probably not reading deeply enough. Welcome Back, Renata Adler. - MeghanO'Rourke, The New Yorker

I Was In Love and Then I wasn't, and sometime during the drifting gray interim I was told by a bookseller friend to read Renata Adler's 1976 debut, Speedboat, a novel that had long been out of print but was absolutely, he insisted, worth the trouble of the search. ... My friend was correct, as booksellers usually are; it was as though the novel had outstretched arms and I fell in - Anna
Weiner, Paris Review

No Longer Gone: After 20 years, Renata Adler Is Back In Print ... Adler is--to tweak a line she used in a notoriously negative review of Pauline Kael's criticism--page by page, line by line, and without interruption, brilliant - Miranda Popkey, The New York Observer

Speedboat is dazzling ...line for line and sentence for sentence, it seems to me thrilling. ... observant, funny, urbane. ...  What is it is a war novel. ... after all -  a narrative like any other. It will or it won't "come out." The way it eventually does, in a chaos of spies and hostages, is satisfying, even if it isnt optimistic. ... - Matthew Spektor, The Believer.

“Ms. Adler’s writing has turned out to be prescient and quietly influential, and her debut novel cast a long shadow on what I consider to be the strongest works of fiction published this year. Speedboat does not prescribe to any novelistic convention—namely, plot (linear or not, it does not have one to speak of)—and yet it distills the novel to its most basic necessities. It is a series of disjointed paragraphs, each a kind of novel in itself, in which every sentence has the urgency of a mortal wound.” —Michael Miller, The New York Observer

“…Renata Adler’s ahead-of-its-time novel Speedboat has gone from cult favorite to undisputed classic.” —The Fiction Advocate

“This novel is a semi-plotless investigation of contemporary life, both actual and intellectual, in which every sentence gleams and winks and lifts boulders. It is vital and dazzling and will never, never go out of style.” —Flavorwire

“Written before the ubiquity of writing workshops and the polished sameness that hovers over most of the polite novels published these days, these two books are triumphs now. They are evidence of what happens when messy life meets clean white page in exquisite prose and should be lingered over, not digested in gulps just to get to THE END.” —A.V. Club

“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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Funny and prescient, with lots of great set pieces.
Bob Follette
Any of you serious readers of modern prose fiction ought to check this out.
C L Haight
I particularly like the author's attention to word usage and her wit.
Mary E. Sibley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Walter J. Jamieson Jr. on July 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
"Nobody died that year. Nobody prospered. There were no births or marriages. Seventeen reverent satires were written - disrupting a cliche' and, presumably, creating a genre." OK, that's what it's like. The narrator is a young, intensely observant, funny, rather neurotic New York woman. I've greatly enjoyed reading it three times. I recommended it once; they hated it.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By C L Haight on February 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This strangely wonderful novel isnt for every reader as it has no real plot, no conventionally constructed characters, nothing but an oddly appealing first-person narrator with a quirky sensibility & an intelligent take on a broad range of things. It could be accused of being a messy ragbag of a book, only it's written in punchy short bursts of spare prose, clean & concise even when most off-the-wall, & weighing in at 170 pages, this is a light-heavyweight contender. It was written in the '70s, but it feels contemporary as if it were fresh out of the box. Any of you serious readers of modern prose fiction ought to check this out. Renata Adler is a whip-smart unconventional prose artist.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
Why are so many astonishing novels from the 1970s out of print? (James McCourt's Mawrdrew Czgzowchwz is another.) Adler's cunning collage of seemingly unrelated vignettes -- tart apercus distilled through a youngish woman's relentless intelligence -- contrives to sum up a particular kind of brittle, urban intellectual existence. "Speedboat" is a challenge, but each piece of the puzzle is short and brilliant enough to keep you mowing through. This is the best, and most original, book Adler ever wrote (before law school tamed her imagination and killed her sense of humor).
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Justin Frank on April 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
WELCOME BACK, RENATA ADLER
POSTED BY MEGHAN O'ROURKE---I thought this described (on the New Yorker blog ) the book beautifully

I first read Renata Adler's then out-of-print novel "Speedboat" in my mid-twenties, curled on an IKEA chair in my room in a shabby rental in Brooklyn, devouring the book's jagged, cool, aphoristic prose and its elliptical and mordant portrait of a certain kind of worldly adult life that I had just begun to live but hardly understood--certainly, not the way the narrator of the novel did.

What is amazing about Adler's novels is the way that they integrate cultural analysis with telling details of social nuance. "Speedboat," like "Pitch Dark," has just been republished by NYRB Classics, after years of being passed along to new readers like samizdat pamphlets. Both novels have more in common with the New Novel than with the thrillers that Adler has said she loves. Both are written in a "discontinuous first-person" (in Muriel Spark's phrase) that cumulatively conveys what it is like to be a female intellectual in the world of publishing in the nineteen-seventies. These are not works of realism--they have a dreamlike quality-- but they contain as much reality as a Balzac novel does. It's just that their reality is incantatory, sparse, periodically blazing, and not a little self-consciously neurotic.

In the rhythm of their sentences, in their singular tone, in their resonances, echoes, and repetitions, "Speedboat" and "Pitch Dark" convey something of what it is like to be alive in any time--but specifically, they convey the psychic climate of the seventies. These novels are records of a penetrating intelligence, a skeptical intelligence (but, thank God, not a reflexively skeptical intelligence).
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Elif Batuman on July 7, 2012
Format: Paperback
this book is like what I wanted Joan Didion's White Album to be (and almost was but not quite) - a period of time distilled into super-interesting observations and anecdotes, artistically arranged - as startling as poetry but with the addictive power of prose - i couldn't put it down!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Lane on May 4, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've heard about Speedboat ever since it first came out, but for some reason never picked it up. Thank you, NYRB for reissuing it! Not only did it meet but it exceeded all expectations. Perhaps it's "easier" to read now than in the '70s because it helped set a style that has been much followed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David G. Davies on January 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book comprises a series of vignettes in the life of a woman. We learn that she is highly talented, highly cultured, somewhat snarky and clever in grasping and explaining situations in which she finds herself. These situations, seemingly independent of each other, provide entertaining reading. The lack of a plot and timeline is disconcerting at the outset, but the quality of the writing saves the situation and the totality of the vignettes hang together and tell us who this woman is. You can't help but admire her.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By richard kent howie on May 25, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
speedboat is just a great read and has the feel of a particular time in america and the irony and beauty and all those memories piling up. very very affable
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