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3.84  ·  Rating details ·  3,845 Ratings  ·  540 Reviews
Winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award.

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
Paperback, 177 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by NYRB Classics (first published 1976)
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Charlie Kruse It's a good book. I'm reading it right now and I'd say, it's good

Community Reviews

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Much of life does not make a lot of sense in the moment it is occuring. Only in posterity, when we dwell on memories, are we able to see past happenings in a clearer light. The passage of time helps us tame the inveterate romanticism of first perceptions and lets the realization sink in that some things are just what they appear to be and further efforts at figuring out some deeper significance are going to remain futile forevermore. Scattered fragments of time spent with people in places glow l ...more
Nick Craske
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ever consciously stood motionless amongst a frenetic city scene, detached from the moment? Stood watching, in suspended time, and listened to the inner drama of headphone sonics, while the motions and momentum of the surround played out around you?

Maybe you’ve revelled in the self hypnosis of a train journey and watched transfixed as the passing landscapes, pylons, buildings... pulsed by... in sync with your inner music.

Overheard, in passing, a single fragment of conversation which formed both a
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: Proustitute
I can't make any more excuses to myself of why I haven't written a review of this book until now. It's because I'm really fucking pissed at Renata Adler.

Speedboat and Pitch Dark are two of the best works of fiction I've read in the past five years. I'm certain that Adler's collected essays are amazing. And yes, one day I'll read them. But right now I want to stew in my selfish indignation that she hasn't written another book of fiction in thirty years! It's just too frustrating to me. I want mor
Feb 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Rowena by: Nick
Shelves: american-lit
“That was a dream, of course, but many of the most important things, I find, are the ones learned in your sleep.” - Renata Adler, Speedboat

As soon as I read the first page I knew I was going to love Renata Adler. This is a hard book to review but one I hope more people will read. Adler has quite an unconventional writing style I was curious about her as I've never heard of her before. I think I might be a fan.

From the first page, I was really sucked in to the story. We follow journalist Jenn Fa
Paul Bryant
Feb 16, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, novels

Newton’s Third Law of thermodynamics says that things cannot be held up indefinitely. This applies to traffic jams and also especially if you’re over the age of 50 when the evidence will be clear even to non-physicists, just look in the mirror. The angle of dangle is in inverse proportion to the square of the hypotenuse; and the radius is constantly half the diameter and twice the circumference except for catwalk models when it’s the reverse. These are things known to the tiniest schoolgirl.

Stephen P
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I begged Renata Adler a third of the way through to please not give me any plot, no throw-ins for the publisher of mystery, suspense, unresolved conflicts, she happily agreed. There was no hard edge of the revolutionary who is out to show-up the publishing industry or forge any critical new paths. Just a kindly smile. Until that smile of agreement and recognition I worried. That was the suspense. Any wisp of a narrative would have decimated the exquisite paragraph long pieces laid out like ...more
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent slant autobiography, maybe the original of its type. I felt as I read that I was getting a purer strain of this stuff, something closer to the source, maybe even the original approach, tone, and form itself. A period piece in many ways, nicely dated, historical, fifties, sixties, seventies, Tiny Tim talk at one point, a good deal of perfectly phrased '70s feminism (well-educated women from the great women's colleges asked if they type), fragmented form to match the times of course. For ...more
Aug 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nyrb
We all carry a storehouse of stories in our head. Given the chance, and the right circumstances, we will begin to tell some of them. Each will reveal something about us. We can't stop transmitting messages no matter how hard we try to conceal what we imagine to be our true self. It's all there, waiting to be deciphered. Transmission beginnings the moment we open our mouth and speak. This all becomes horribly acute if we are with someone we are trying to impress; sitting opposite some lovely pers ...more
That 'writers write' is meant to be self-evident. People like to say it. I find it is hardly ever true. Writers drink. Writers rant. Writers phone. Writers sleep. I have met very few writers who write at all.

NYRB Classics, the imprint that's mostly about reviving out-of-print books they think deserve a second look, got a big hit with Stoner a few years back; now Speedboat is getting a little traction, and I'm happy to say that it's better. I first heard about it in this piece, which compares her
M. Sarki
Jul 17, 2013 rated it liked it

"In any group of two or more, it seems, somebody is on trial."__Renata Adler from the novel Speedboat

Nobody ever said the poet/essayist/novelist/short story writer Jim Harrison was anything but a very smart man, charming when not drunk, a very talented cook if the reports are true, an avid walker, and very good at what he does which is basically write, that is, when he isn't involved in these other things outdoorsy men do. Renata Adler is a very smart girl
Mar 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: poor little rich girls/boys, people with rich people problems, and those who aspire to be either
Shelves: novels, aphorisms
Adler published a novel of 5 previously published short stories that mostly consist of temporally and spatially disjointed, aphoristic paragraphs. In sum, a novel of pithy standalone paragraphs. Some paragraphs are biting, some banal. All are the often subvocal observations of narrator Jen Fain. Fain is by turns a journalist, teacher, and political intern, who drifts through jobs and lovers. She attended expensive prep schools, summer camps, and ivy league universities; studied abroad in Paris; ...more
Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One warm spring Saturday evening in 1968 or 1969, I was walking east on West 57th Street near Ninth Avenue as a middle-aged man and a teen-age girl wearing a party dress – it was graduation-party season – were walking toward me. As we passed each other, the man, who I took to be her father, said to the girl, “There's one.” The girl turned and looked at me curiously over her shoulder as I, stunned, was doing the same. All these years later, I still wonder, one what?

”At six one morning, Will went
Jul 12, 2013 marked it as i-get-the-picture
Interesting... a period piece. For a book, though, whose main raison d'être is to be essentially modern, what happens when that particular moment of modernity passes...?

On the other hand, NYC 1971 is something I can dig... I was there. Still...

Renata Adler in 1970 was relentlessly gorgeous. I still dig her hair...

If I were 25 and female, I'd probably take her as a role model. But that said, being neither, I feel no particular compulsion to finish this, and will shelve it.
Nate D
Aug 17, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nate D by: Mike Emmons via goodreads
A constant incisive crosscutting of anecdote, allegory, reminiscence, and upended maxim, all jumbled into an unfamiliar poetry and forcing new associations out of the disarray.

Page by page, the wording and insight here are a pleasure. And I appreciate Adler's humor: satirizing through cynical, scathing restatement of the familiar, rather than engineering outlandish scenarios to advance a point. (There are a few outlandish scenarios nonetheless, but they tend to be off on their own, filling some
Aug 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Renata Adler's Speedboat faced great contention upon its release. It was not for the content, albeit morally-spotty in parts, but rather, that the work was classified as a 'novel.' Speedboat is a heterogeneous mixture of story-fragments. Collected, they feature no sort of temporal progression, nor is there any plot to Speedboat as a whole. Instead, these microcosmic tales are connected by context and character alone.

One of Adler's most immaculate passages states:

"So for these purposes, digitali
Ronald Morton
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Really it's 3.5, but I like rounding up, even though at times it makes me unreliably enthusiastic.


This is one of those times (where the rating is unreliable), but I think a 3 is too low, or at least that it would put much of what follows in the wrong light.


And really, that rating is based on Adler's prose, and not the book itself. And (further) really, what I mean is that Adler is one hell of a writer, I just found that I didn't like what she was writing. Or, more specifically, I liked
Jeff Jackson
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-2
Maximum Droll.
Mar 29, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Only thirty or so pages remain for me to read, but I just don't return to it.

On first glance, this book would seem a perfect fit for my taste. It's a collage of cleverly recounted, often humorous anecdotes gathered from the narrator's extensive travels all over the world.

Even the most remarkable events are told with a blasé tone that began to disgust me more and more as I read on. At times I suspected I was approaching the material from the wrong direction, that maybe I was injecting the wrong m
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oddly enough, this book doesn't rock for me. In theory, and reading past reviews, this is a book I would go for - but alas, it didn't do anything for me. There are seven chapters or stories - and there is no real chapter narration, but more of a writing that is fragmented and jumps around a lot. Most of the stories, if not all, were published in the New Yorker, in the early and mid - 1970s. It is very much the fiction of its time - there are traces of Donald Barthelme's sense of narration or jok ...more
Jul 15, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
a snarkfest. some funny punchlines--but many more stale ones. a structure to admire if it only had a bit more heart and a little less posturing. that is, just couldn't get into it... best things about it were historical -- its capturing of 60s and 70s racism, its city university riffs, the tone and portrait of hip and swinging but fried and bankrupt NYC intelligentsia.

Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is like reading someone else's memories, jotted down, connected in some way you don't understand, from a specific span of time.

There were little bits I really liked. The thing about experimental fiction that I'm not always sure about is if it's actually telling a story. Thus my discomfort and confusion. I wish more of my GoodReads friends had read this so we could chat.
Sara Mazzoni
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
New York, fine anni ’70. Ma anche il resto del mondo. Una voce narrante, giovane donna, giornalista. Brevi impressioni sparpagliate della sua vita. Qual è la peculiarità di questo libro, il motivo per cui se ne parla ancora dopo tanti anni, quello per cui è amato ma anche odiato? In gran parte, lo stile. In una parola: blasé (secondo il dizionario: “indifferente, scettico, disincantato; si dice di persona che sia divenuta tale per noia della vita mondana e per abuso dei piaceri, o che ostenti pe ...more
Mar 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Speedboat, first published in 1976, is a sort of "proto-blog": a series of disconnected vignettes from the life of a sporadically employed, serially monogamous, overeducated, slightly neurotic, globetrotting Manhattan-based journalist-cum-professor named Jen Fain. Some of the vignettes are genuinely interesting and funny in an absurdist kind of way. Other vignettes have a snapshot-like quality, being that they are keenly observed scenes expressed in smart snappy prose, but ultimately do not seem ...more
Mar 21, 2014 marked it as abandoned
Sorry, Nick. I read about 60 pages and I can't get into it. Just seems like random thoughts with no cohesion- no story
Apr 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, women
Actually teetering on a 4.5

I find I am a victim of language. Much like Ms. Adler, although I cannot speak for her in totality in this regard. I love language so much that I have become a victim of language, & as such, I feel compelled to abuse it, to disorient it, to bend it, to hone it, to sculpt it in brand new fashions & to breed new passions from it. This is my ultimate goal. And in this fault, storytelling falls to the waist side. It becomes secondary. A cohesive stream of thought i
Apr 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: gave-up-on
I just never got into this. It's described as "better than Didion" but it's not. It smells like Didion, but without the ruthless insight. I mean, it IS insightful, but not penetrating in the same way that certain Didion essays have changed my life.

It's well written, but the endless bourgie vignettes never clicked nor resonated with me. I'll try Pitch Dark and then re-approach this some other time.
Adam Dalva
Dec 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fascinatingly structured novel in vignettes - all of them sharp, and observational, and very much of a time and place. In its elliptical style and humor, it surpasses Hardwick's SLEEPLESS NIGHTS, which it resembles. We hunt through the paragraphs, many of which are sort of like the platonic ideal of a "Talk of the Town" article, for the plot, which slowly unwinds itself. A total pleasure.
Shawn Mooney
Some quirkily brilliant paragraphs and set pieces here and there, amidst other bits that must have been written under the influence of some pretty strong substances. There's no novel here, though; not in any sense that has meaning or value to me. Ultimately, a third of the way in, I'd had enough.
Amber Sparks
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No one, no one has the observational power and weird way with words that Adler does. It's like reading a book by aliens way cooler than we are.
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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
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“I think when you are truly stuck, when you have stood still in the same spot for too long, you throw a grenade in exactly the spot you were standing in, and jump, and pray. It is the momentum of last resort.” 58 likes
“That 'writers write' is meant to be self-evident. People like to say it. I find it is hardly ever true. Writers drink. Writers rant. Writers phone. Writers sleep. I have met very few writers who write at all.” 39 likes
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