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March 29, 2013 9:45 AM   Subscribe

Cult writer Renata Adler, whose novel Speedboat has been reissued by NYRB Classics, sits down for an interview with The Believer.

New York Review Books has also republished Adler's novel Pitch Dark.

Speedboat reviewed in Slate.

Adler remembered on the New Yorker's Page-Turner blog.

Renata Adler previously.
posted by Rustic Etruscan (6 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Michael Wolff's appreciation of her in the Guardian has put her on the list of writers I have to read in the time I've got left:
Adler is 74. 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.
posted by jamjam at 11:11 AM on March 29, 2013


A working link to her Harper's essay on Judge Sirica and the New York Times affair.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 11:30 AM on March 29, 2013


That Harper's essay is amazing.
posted by chinston at 11:42 AM on March 29, 2013


That Harper's essay is amazing.

Well, kind of. It is a fairly brutal indictment of the New York Times and its insane groupthink (Adler connects the dots to its mishandling of the Wen Ho Lee affair in the introduction to Canaries in the Mineshaft).

But the essay, as good and as illuminating as it is, bugged me. Adler makes a big deal of the Times' refusal to note that John Dean was sentenced by Sirica. But unless Dean got off light -- an argument that Adler does not make -- the inference cuts against her argument: if someone who was sentenced to jail by a judge says that the judge is incorruptible, the Times isn't pulling a fast one by not noting his connection.

And the thing that really bothered me was her constant refrain that this was a single sentence that the Times went apeshit about. For one thing, one sentence is enough: if she hadn't been able to provide proof that Sirica was obviously mob-connected and corrupt, that one sentence would be all it took to discredit her. But the other thing is that Adler's essay, which excoriates the Times and Sirica's son, forgets about the average reader of her book. It may be obvious to her and should be obvious to most journalists that Sirica was obviously dirty (although if she expected Sirica's son to be able to tell that his father was dirty based on events that mostly happened before he was an adult, she's either being meanspirited or obtuse), but even after she lays out her evidence in the Harper's essay, it's not at all clear to me how even a reasonably informed layman should have known all of it.

So I'm actually glad that she got some grief for her obscure sentence even though it and she were completely correct. Adler, in an interview with Salon says this:
But when you wrote that sentence about Judge Sirica originally, didn’t it occur to you that without a little more backing it was inflammatory?

Well, the truth is, if I had it to do again, I would amplify, but only by another sentence or two.

So do you regret now that it wasn’t amplified?

No, I don’t know if it would have mattered at all. I mean, the Times ran four pieces about me even before Sirica. I don’t think I did an injustice, I don’t think it was wrong to leave it that way — I was not doing a reporting piece, I was writing a memoir of what happened at the New Yorker.
That attitude just seems nuts to me.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 12:08 PM on March 29, 2013


And for the sake of completeness, a rebuttal to Adler's piece. I think that he gets to some of the flaws in her Harper's piece, in that her claims about the illegality of boxing in D.C. are overstated. But other aspects, such as Adler's argument that Judge Sirica's father made quite a bit of money by selling alcohol during Prohibition, are much weaker.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 2:19 PM on April 1, 2013


But other aspects, such as Adler's argument that Judge Sirica's father made quite a bit of money by selling alcohol during Prohibition, are much weaker.

Sorry, that should be "But other aspects, such as his response to Adler's argument that Judge Sirica's father made quite a bit of money by selling alcohol during Prohibition, are much weaker."
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 2:41 PM on April 2, 2013


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