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Posts Tagged ‘Renata Adler’

Being a Tough Guy, and Other News

January 21, 2014 | by

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A lobby card for The Tough Guy, 1926. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

  • What’s it like to share a name with a Tom Clancy hero and teach at the Naval Academy? “I would be lying if I didn’t say that when I walk out Gate Three of the Academy from time to time—which is the gate that Jack Ryan walks out of during Patriot Games and gets shot—that there’s a sense of surrealness to it.”
  • Speaking of which, masculinity in art is undergoing a transformation. We’re “questioning yesterday’s tough guys.” Condolences, tough guys!
  • In honor of MLK Day, The New Yorker has lifted the pay wall on Renata Adler’s 1965 classic “Letter from Selma.”
  • What New York’s editors want in a good book: “Are you writing a dinosaur erotica novel, or the book that all dinosaur erotica novels will be measured by?”
  • The poet Mamoun Eltlib on writing and reading in Sudan: “You don’t feel it’s a living language; you just feel it’s like a dead language, a bloody language.”
  • Now accepting applications for admission: the Yale Writers’ Conference, a summer program with a formidable faculty including Nathaniel Rich, Je Banach, Teddy Wayne, Trey Ellis, Marian Thurm, Colum McCann, Rick Moody, Chuck Klosterman, and others.

 

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What We’re Loving: Screwball, Gothic, and Southern, to Name a Few

December 6, 2013 | by

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“We all find we cannot take on any more patients. We are all waiting for calls from superiors, pick up the phones each time hoping it is one of them, then find it is only another patient. The superiors of course think of us as patients and dread our calls.” Last Sunday I spent the hours between five and eleven A.M. finishing Renata Adler’s 1983 novel Pitch Dark, and they were the best four solid hours of my week. Thanks to NYRB Classics, which recently reissued Pitch Dark and Adler’s earlier novel, Speedboat, Adler is coming to be recognized as one of the great novelists of our time, on the strength of two slim books. Until now I had avoided Pitch Dark because it has the lesser reputation, and because Speedboat seemed to me so perfect, I couldn’t imagine lightning striking twice. But Pitch Dark—the story of a breakup, and of a solitary vacation gone awry—has all the suspense of a mystery, all the wit and companionability of an essay, and all the satirical worldliness I loved in Speedboat. Adler should be required reading for M.F.A students, at the considerable risk of shutting young writers down for lack of anything to say. The rest of us can read her for pleasure. —Lorin Stein

When you think about it, there really are a startling number of remarriages in screwball comedies: His Girl Friday, My Favorite Wife, The Philadelphia Story, The Awful Truth—and those are just the films in which Cary Grant ends up with an ex-wife. The philosopher Stanley Cavell takes on this phenomenon in 1981’s Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage, and argues that the plot device was more than just a way to flirt with the Hays Code. As he writes, “Can human beings change? The humor, and the sadness, of remarriage comedies can be said to result from the fact that we have no good answer to that question.” —Sadie O. Stein

The Fargo Moorhead Observer reports that a Fargo man has been arrested for clearing snow with a flamethrower. The man stated that he was simply “fed up with battling the elements” and that he did not possess the willpower necessary to “move four billion tons of whitebullsh-t.” —John Jeremiah Sullivan Read More »

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Book Blasphemy, and Other News

March 12, 2013 | by

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  • Books carved with surgical tools
  • Related: “I’m sure what I did was completely blasphemous, but y’all ... it turned out really cool.” Wallpapering with Faulkner. (His pages, not him.)
  • How many copies need to move to qualify a book as an Amazon bestseller? PW does the math and finds: not that many
  • Speaking of inflation! In the UK, the sinister-sounding “inflation basket” indicates that people are buying more e-books, less champagne
  • “These are fundamentally probing, even discomfiting, books.” Meghan O’Rourke pays tribute to Renata Adler. 

 

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Falling Hard

November 27, 2012 | by

You see things differently when you’re in love. Two outpatients from a methadone clinic slap each other on the corner. A goiter rides the crosstown bus. We attend a dinner party; none of the dogs have tails. Men in the map room of the New York Public Library surveil passing breasts. Nights slip by. I sit on the curb outside a magazine launch and watch a famous author pour cold water down a woman’s arm. “Don’t be jealous,” my companion says impatiently, cupping his own elbows. “He’s only applying a temporary tattoo.”

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. I did not know whether this recommendation was meant to be sympathetic or encouraging, but I found it on eBay in two minutes, for three dollars. My friend was correct, as booksellers usually are; it was as though the novel had outstretched arms and I fell in.

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Heroine Worship: Talking with Kate Zambreno

October 22, 2012 | by

Kate Zambreno’s first book, O Fallen Angel, won Chiasmus Press’s “Undoing the Novel” First Book Contest, and her second book, Green Girl, was a finalist for the Starcherone Innovative Fiction Prize. So it should come as no surprise that her provocative new work, Heroines, published by Semiotext(e)’s Active Agents imprint next month, challenges easy categorization, this time by poetically swerving in and out of memoir, diary, fiction, literary history, criticism, and theory. With equal parts unabashed pathos and exceptional intelligence, Heroines foregrounds female subjectivity to produce an impressive and original work that examines the suppression of various female modernists in relation to Zambreno’s own complicated position as a writer and a wife. It concludes by bringing the problems of the modernists into conversation with the contemporary by offering a timely consideration of the role of the Internet and blogs in creating a community for women writers.

What was it about the modernist wives that first interested you?

I think I came to the wives through an initial discovery of more neglected modernist women writers—Olive Moore, Anna Kavan, Jane Bowles, maybe I’d add Jean Rhys to that list. I was living in London working in a bookshop and not doing much in terms of trying to write a novel, so I pitched to Chad Post at Dalkey that I write an essay on Kavan. And because I had nothing else to do, I sat in the British Library and read everything by her. And started reading all these other experimental women writers, like Elizabeth Smart—not the Mormon abductee, but the one obsessed with the poet George Barker, an obsession she documents in the amazing By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. Not a modernist, I know, but I sat at the British Library and read the communal notebook she kept with Barker and thought about Vivien(ne)’s hand on “The Waste Land” manuscript. I began to be really interested in ideas of literary collaboration.

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What We’re Loving: Old New York, The Boss, SodaStream

August 10, 2012 | by

I didn’t think I would ever read another book about Henry James. But here I am, three quarters of the way through Michael Gorra’s Portrait of a Novel, a book-length study—or really, essay—on The Portrait of a Lady. It reads like an old-fashioned work of belles lettres, combining biography, travelogue, and literary history (plus a good deal of helpful synopsis) to explain how and why James wrote his best-loved novel. The explanation is full of grace and deep learning lightly worn. Yet Gorra takes for granted James’s homosexuality, and his sexual knowledge, as well-established facts. In this sense, it is a book of our moment, a hi-def image of the Master coming into his own. —Lorin Stein

The host, for some reason, was taking Instamatic pictures of his guests. It was not clear whether he was doing this in order to be able to show, at some future time, that there had been this gathering in his house. Or whether he thought of pictures in some voodoo sense. Or whether he found it difficult to talk. Or whether he was bored. Two underground celebrities—one of whom had become a sensation by never generating or exhibiting a flicker of interest in anything, the other of whom was known mainly for hanging around the first—were taking pictures too.

I have Lorin to thank for introducing me to Renata Adler’s 1976 first novel, Speedboat. Maybe its unconventional structure (a series of vignettes) and plotline (there isn’t really one) are not for everyone. But for sheer linguistic pleasure, fierce intelligence, and a vivid picture of seventies New York, look no further. I breezed through it in a day and have been recommending it left and right with the kind of excitement I haven’t felt in a long time.—Sadie O. Stein

Bruce Springsteen’s music is the Staff Pick of my heart. “Bobby Jean” and “Secret Garden” give tremble to the word rock, while “Born to Run” accomplishes something in music that Holden Caulfield did in literature, honestly portraying the anxiety of adolescence in a desire to escape. The New Yorker’s profile of Bruce Springsteen is a breathtaking homage to the now sixty-two-year-old rocker, who is set to embark on yet another world tour. The piece follows a young Springsteen watching Elvis on the black-and-white telly, takes us through his years of top-forty glory and out into a political movement that gave hope to the country. The profile shows that there is still heart in the music industry—even if that heart was born in Jersey. —Noah Wunsch

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