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Pitch Dark

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  969 ratings  ·  129 reviews
"Pitch Dark is the story of the end of a love affair—a story that, in Renata Adler’s brilliant telling, becomes a richly diffracted, illuminating, investigation of an exceptional woman. After a nine-year affair with Jake, a married man, Kate Ennis decides to escape. She takes off, looking for something beautiful and quiet by the sea, but finds herself in a pitch dark and d ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published January 28th 2013 by Perennial (HarperCollins) (first published February 5th 1983)
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3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  969 ratings  ·  129 reviews


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Brian
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Brian by: Proustitute
In her interview with Alice Gregory in the June 2013 edition of The Believer, Renata Adler talks about how a critic once wrote about her work: "This person writes so badly that it sets your teeth on edge." Adler found this particular critique of her work to be fair and balanced - the writer gave specific examples of Adler's writing in her piece. Those examples happened to be Adler's favorite parts, the best she felt she could achieve, so it was clear that it was a case of her work just not being ...more
Melanie
May 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

"Is it always the same story, then? Somebody loves and somebody doesn't, or loves less, or loves someone else. Or someone is a good soul and someone a villain. And there are just these episodes, anecdotes, places, pauses, hailings of cabs, overcomings of obstacles, or instances of being overcome by them, illnesses, accidents, recoveries, wars, desires, welcomings, rebuffs, baskings (rare, not so long), pinings (more frequent, perhaps, and longer), actions, failures to act, hesitations, prolifera
...more
Stephen P
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"We were running flat out. The opening was dazzling. The middle was dazzling. It was like a steeplechase composed entirely of hurdles.
But that would not be a steeplechase at all. It would be more like a steep, steep climb.
They were shouting, Tell it, big momma, tell it. I mean, the child is only six years old.
Do I need to stylize it, then, or can I tell it as it was?"

Seemingly, this opening of Pitch Dark is telling and foretelling about an adult love relationship. However, Adler tucks in the chi
...more
Jonathan
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book, and I defer to the superior skills of the other GR reviewers who have reviewed this already, and so well.

I will, however, as is becoming something of a schtick, look at a short sentence of hers to demonstrate her craft.

Here are five versions of the same sentence:

1. By accident, did I throw the most important thing away?
2. Did I, by accident, throw the most important thing away?
3. Did I throw, by accident, the most important thing away?
4. Did I throw the most important thi
...more
Aubrey
But the nearest analogue, as a business, to the law lies not in business but in the military, as it prepares for war.

There was all the difference in the world between the beneficiaries of what they were on the boards of and anyone who actually depended on them.
How many thought that she was going to be raped? Seriously, though. The narrator goes off by herself to a foreign country only to drive around in the middle of the night and interact with a lot of shifty men, and not once during the whol
...more
Vipassana
This is not a book about the end of an affair. It is about a brilliant woman, Kate Ennis, and an affair that she has. We know very little about the man in the affair, Jake, which reinforces my notion that this is not a book about the affair. Even after it ends, Kate seems to still have this affair, she seems to possess it. It seems like she has it in a jar and watches. And is she in the jar? Is she out of it?

When the clouds shift, for one moment, or for several moments, and there is a possibil
...more
Abby
Jul 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
"How could I know that every time you had a chance to choose you would choose the other thing?"

This is a book about heartbreak. But it isn't a conventional novel about the end of a years-long affair between a journalist and a married man. Like "Speedboat," Renata Adler's brilliant first novel, it is a story told in fragments, an accumulation of thoughts, incidents, conversations and, most notably, a long (for Adler) nightmarish section describing a pitch dark night in rural Ireland, where Kate E
...more
MJ Nicholls
Aug 25, 2017 marked it as half-read  ·  review of another edition
I was zipping along with this novel for a while, appreciating the frenetic felicity of her style, then we lapsed into an extremely long ramble around rural Ireland, and my interest suddenly leapt off a cliff. This being the one novel I poached from Munich’s tremendous English-language bookshop The Munich Readery (run by an American with a stock including Barth, Barthelme, Cortazar, et al), I am fairly peeved.
Ian Scuffling
I think I may have been in an odd headspace for the second half of Renata Adler’s Pitch Dark as my partner and I received the saddening news that our 14 year old cat is terminally ill with an untreatable cancer. She is comfortable for the time being, but, time being what it is, that will be assuredly too short.

So my apologies to Adler. What I did digest here was evocative and beautiful, quick and witty, dark and murky. An effusively written work. The sequence with the car running out of gas in I
...more
Ronald Morton
Feb 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
You can rely too much, my love, on the unspoken things. And the wry smile. I have that smile myself and I’ve learned the silence, too, over the years. Along with your expressions, like No notion and Of necessity. What happens, though, when it is all unsaid, is that you wake up one morning, no, it’s more like late one afternoon, and it’s not just unsaid, it’s gone. That’s all. Just gone.
A fascinating book told in a fragmented start-stop-startover-shift-tellsomethingesle style (at least through
...more
Ademption
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: aphorisms, novels
When someone needs an ear rather than problem solving, I listen and don't give advice. Generally, people don't want advice. They want to ventilate their hearts, make their own choices, and have these choices affirmed. Friends and loved ones expect this. Renate Adler asks the reader for a novel-length session of this pose, listening to the narrator feel overwhelmed by tiny problems when she actually wants to spin her wheels about her married-man problem.

I was biased. I set out to like this one mo
...more
Ben Winch
Dec 08, 2015 added it
Shelves: american, anglo
I read this before Speedboat for no particular reason – because it was close at hand – and despite some confusion re its jagged/jump-cut structure I liked it a lot. This is one slick, hard-boiled construction, hand-buffed to perfection but retaining all the risk-taking verve of a first draft, able to lurch wildly across the width and breadth of Adler’s concerns without seeming random, the type of book that makes you question your own comprehension before you question its sense. In between, when ...more
Vincent Scarpa
May 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites

“What happens, though, when it is all unsaid, is that you wake up one morning, no, it’s more like one afternoon, and it’s not just unsaid, it’s gone. That’s all. Just gone. I remember this word, that look, that small inflection, after all this time. I used to hold them, trust them, read them like a rune. Like a sign that there was a house, a billet, a civilization where we were. I look back and I think I was just there all alone. Collecting wisps and signs. Like a spinster who did know a young m
...more
Cathie
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-rc-goal
Was there something I did, you think, or might have done, I ask you that, some thing I did not do, and might have done, that would have kept you with me yet a while?

In the Afterword, Sparks notes “It seems excessive for a very bright woman still to be in love with Jake.”

This is more than having an affair with a married man. Displaying bits and pieces of excessive paranoia as Kate attempts to separate from her married lover, you begin to see her falling apart, questioning time and again…should
...more
James Murphy
We're told by Muriel Spark, who provides an "Afterword" to this edition of Pitch Dark, that it's a love story. And it's a portrait of a woman, Kate Ennis, who's in love but on the run. The first two parts of the novel find her traveling to try and forget the relationship she's recently ended with a married lover of eight years. She's fled to Orcas Island in Puget Sound. Then she's in Ireland as guest at the castle of an acquaintance. And then she's back home as she works toward a decision. Pitch ...more
Daniel Polansky
Oooo. Ooo! Wow! What fabulous, fabulous prose. Adler is a tremendously skilled stylist, I can't even say how much I enjoyed this. About a woman in early-middle (?) age reminiscing on a long time affair, and on a misadventure in Ireland, and about many, many other events that have happened to her. It is written in this peculiar, discursive style, with the first and third sections in particular consisting of memories and observations which have no real narrative link, but maintain a certain contin ...more
Stephanie Sun
"And this matter of the commas. And this matter of the paragraphs. The true comma. The pause comma. The afterthought comma. The hesitation comma. The rhythm comma. The blues."

Pitch Dark is kind of about a no-longer-young-but-not-yet-old white lady trying to forget the married man she has had a long affair with. She has an encounter with a raccoon that reminds her of him. She also gets into a minor car accident in Ireland that leaves her to take extreme measures to escape some opportunistic local
...more
Sean
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017

Well, this was a pleasant surprise after I failed to connect with Speedboat a few years back. Here, Adler's narrator Kate, a journalist, is in the final throes of a long affair with a married man. The affair is only the bare framework of the novel, though, as Kate is prone to digressions in the telling. Needing some space to think and reflect, she travels to Ireland where paranoia takes hold, lacing her time there with a vague menace that may or may not truly exist outside her mind. Adler writes
...more
Matthew Wilder
May 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
Renata Adler's mania for the law, and for the hyper specific language and intolerance for blurry thinking implicit in legal training, crashes into this sequel to Adler's earlier, funnier, Resnais-like SPEEDBOAT. Here, fragments of an unhappy affair with an unavailable married man flicker between Adler's usual hyperclose, uptight, insanely pedantic descriptions of ordinary events--the "bravura set piece" of which is a long, creepy night driving around winding roads in Ireland that builds to s pre ...more
Nicholas During
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In many ways this book is even better than Speedboat. It feels like a more complete novel, with the anecdotal, observant, and brutally analytical style that Adler used in her first book. It's also filled with little tricks and jabs, that are hard to understand but I think work as a whole to make this book, as the back copy so succinctly points out, a book of questions. I love a book that brings up questions, mostly that cannot be answered. At the same time it lacks a bit of the powerful voice fr ...more
Jessica
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What happens, though, when it is all unsaid, is that you wake up one morning, no, it's more like late afternoon, and it's not just unsaid, it's gone. That's all. Just gone. I remember this word, that look, that small inflection, after all this time. I used to hold them, trust them, read them like a rune. Like a sign that there was a house, a billet, a civilization where we were. I look back and I think I was just there all alone.

I read that when Renata Adler wrote Speedboat, she deliberately o
...more
Holly
Mar 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stream of consciousness and thus non-linear w/o a concise plot. Brilliant but lonely woman attempts to escape her 9-yr affair w/ a married man by taking a trip to Ireland; a bizarre set of circumstances involving her rental car provide the backbone of the story, but the central theme is that of seeking to understand the realities of love and life - when did she take a path, and where did it lead her?

Adler nails this writing style - I found myself keeping notes of thoughts that recurred w/in the
...more
freckledbibliophile
Dec 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Pitch Dark, was a unique and definitely a brain read. I feel this story was more of her allowing darkness to leave her body. Purge. Purge of what? Her disbelief in a higher power? Her transgressions? After all, she did love in a way that was confused with another's ideology of love so deeply rooted in the human psyche.

Her impetuous temperament seems to have been the reason she looked at everything in such a negative way...Everyone out to get her or judging her...watching her.

"Did I throw the mos
...more
Holly
Nov 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For every woman who has ever been told "I love you" by an occupied man.
Erica
the first act is some of the absolute most heartbreaking fiction i have ever read. definitely loses steam but i savored reading this and am sincerely quite sad there are no more renata adler novels left for me to read
Claire P
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book after falling in love with Rachel Khong's Goodbye, Vitamin. At her book launch at Green Apple, Khong mentioned that Renata Adler was one of the authors whose books she always kept nearby.

The narrative doesn't follow a straight path - you jump through time, place, and perspective quickly and it can sometimes be hard to keep up. One of my favorite moments is when the narrator, Kate, discovers a sick raccoon that has been living in her kitchen. She has no idea how it got in th
...more
Kimee
Pretentious white people whine about their pretentious, unsatisfying affairs. Yawn.

Staccato, repetitive first-person sentence structure to illustrate Kate's anxieties over mundane interactions annoyed me. Also, I'm not interested in reading the thoughts of a person who writes sentences like "This is about a murderer with whom I recently had lunch."

I did like the part with the raccoon, though!

Fails where 'I Love Dick' shines.
Laura Wallace
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1980s-and-90s
"Wait a minute. Whose voice is this? Not mine. Not mine. Not mine."

The only word I can use to describe this book: hypnotic.

like Adler's other novel, Speedboat, Pitch Dark is a nonlinear, discontinuous narrative. There is little conventional exposition--that is, in a sense, major elements of story are never clearly exposed. The novel centers on, begins with a separation between two lovers, Kate and Jake. Jake is married to someone else; Kate is the narrator. In the afterword to the NYRB edition,
...more
Iris
Apr 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here is a novel built from the interior fragments of a wildly articulate, sensitive, rational person. Its disjointed structure and self-conscious language made me remember "Sleepless Nights" by Elizabeth Hardwick. Like "Pitch Dark," "Sleepless Nights" was reprinted by New York Review of Books, and is a collage of memories. Compared to Hardwick, Adler is less profound and less pleasant (think long digressions about exits on the road to Dublin, and neurotic preparation for a peat fire...this is no ...more
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Born in Milan, Italy, Adler grew up in Danbury, Connecticut after her parents had fled Nazi Germany in 1933. After attending Bryn Mawr, The Sorbonne, and Harvard, she became a staff writer-reporter for The New Yorker. She later received her J.D. from Yale Law School, and an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Georgetown University.

Adler’s essays and articles have been collected in Toward a Radical Mid
...more
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“A rowboat, without oars. An outboard motor. As you can sit there for years, forever, with that outboard motor, pulling again, and yet again, that rope, or cord, or wire, or whatever it is, and winding yet again, and each time, every single time, the motor, though it may give a cough or two, will fail to start, though if it starts, and when it starts, you are, at whatever speed you choose, within the engine's limits and the hazards of the course, well on your way, until it starts you are no nearer where you were going on the fifteenth try than on the first; the enterprise may last forever, and never yet quite begin. The fact seems to be, however, that unless some apparently unrelated event should intervene -- a bullet, a heart attack, a cry from shore that dinner's ready, or company has come, or junior's run away -- the engine will eventually start. In the meantime, though, while you have been intensely busy, it is difficult to account for how the time is spent.” 9 likes
“You can rely too much, my love, on the unspoken things. And the wry smile. I have that smile myself, and I've learned the silence too, over the years. Along with your expressions, like No notion and Of necessity. What happens, though, when it is all unsaid, is that you wake up one morning, no, it's more like late one afternoon, and it's not just unsaid, it's gone. That's all. Just gone. I remember this word, that look, that small inflection, after all this. I used to hold them, trust them, read them like a rune. Like a sign that there was a house, a billet, a civilization where we were. I look back and I think I was just there all alone. Collecting wisps and signs.” 8 likes
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