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on April 4, 2017
Excellent reading, although at times a bit unsatisfying when you say to your self, "Tell me more...". At the time the book was published, Adler was writing in an entirely new style of pricing together fragments of larger or smaller events and observations. In the end the shorts mesh together into a complete narrative. She keenly captures the varying American moods of the '60's culture from intellectual to Pop as a young journalist. The style and structure of the writing is almost better suited for the contemporary reader use to receiving ideas in sound bites.
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on May 4, 2013
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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on February 26, 2010
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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on October 2, 2014
Couldn't wait to put it down
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on February 10, 2015
SPEEDBOAT is a very good book.It's usually classified as a novel.I'd question that categorization.The book has no plot and only in a superficial sense does it have characters.It's a collage of literary fragments, brilliantly organized but not following any discernible pattern or progression.All the fragments ostensibly come from or concern the narrator , someone apparently named Jen Fain.Jen strikes me as an artifice.These are the ramblings of Renata Adler.I suspect she found she really couldn't write a novel and came up with this instead.It works because page after page it's filled with stunning anecdotes,insights and occasional bursts of humor.

One thought that recurred to me while reading this book is, who does a writer write for?The 'artsy" answer is , for himself.True and good , up to a point but no one other than secret diarists imagine that they have no audience(even the secret diarist fantasizes about being read).SPEEDBOAT was not written for the intelligent, common reader , whoever she may be.It's very New Yorky.Adler uses names and neighborhoods as signifiers.You have references to Elaines,Trader Vics,Bendel,Saks and the Village.These names have meanings that you know or don't know.Her people are almost all highly educated cosmopolitans who when not in New York flit from Angkor Wat to Mediterranean islands.This is a way of writing that is in sharp contrast to any number of traditional novelists.For some reason,I kept thinking of Thomas Hardy.Hardy's most famous novels have a definite geographic setting, the mythical Wessex( a fictionalized version of The Dorset of his youth that expanded with time).I don't think Hardy expected Wessexer's to read his books or thought you needed to know much about Wessex to understand them.This is not the case with Adler.I can't imagine a lot of people outside of relatively sophisticated circles familiar with New York reading or getting much pleasure out of this book .Let's face it , it's really a narrow book .That is not a bad thing but it's a limiting thing.

There is an afterword by Guy Trebay that tries to do for the book what the evangelists of abstract expressionism tried to do for Pollock That is make it into a historical inevitability.The form of SPEEDBOAT is an expression of the zeitgeist.Hence , it is truer and better than other books of the time. Progressivist, dialectical nonsense !This book doesn't need to rest on that kind of silliness.Any writer worth a damn would be proud to produce a book this good and fresh .In that sense , she made it new.(although I don't want to get started on the fetishism of "newness").
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on January 28, 2014
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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on May 25, 2013
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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on August 11, 2015
The narcissistic bitch at the middle of the plot was so revolting that I stopped reading after the first chapter. I wouldn't take my reaction too seriously. The NYT reviewers rated it quite highly. So this is, basically, a rant on my part.
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on June 21, 2013
Speedboat is not an experience for the faint of heart. Set in 1970s NYC as a fictional memoir, Renata Adler's novel takes montage to a semantic extreme that somehow becomes indistinguishable from lived reality. Beyond the patchwork of short, barely connected episodes, Adler's mastery of montage infuses every word until even the most obvious phrases become miracles of combination, revealing the wonder of language at the very moment that the sum of its parts creates a larger sense. Then again, maybe sense is too strong a word. Behind Adler's technique lies an unsettling understanding of the world in which all meaning beyond episodic observation is denied and even the most rudimentary social narrative is rejected.

It's easy to connect Adler's free-falling prose to the social malaise of America in the `70s, but it might be more helpful to point out that Speedboat's lack of narrative stability is a perfect analog for a new expansive social reality, a space and time that simply doesn't make sense in the old ways but which hasn't yet created its own stories. This is what the new world looked like to someone who had one foot in the old one: strange, barely intelligible, full of opportunities and disappointments, and finally, worth passing on to another generation. Acerbic and optimistic, Adler reminds us that new social contracts are not without unintended consequences and that constructing meaning remains the most revolutionary of all social endeavors: a time consuming process undertaken one day at a time, one person at a time, one word at a time.
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on December 25, 2014
Like many, I read this because DFW's fiction syllabus was published on the internet. Even though this was published in the 70s, it captures modern sensibilities by not totally committing to one idea, but expertly piecing together deep thoughts on many ideas.
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