Two Cents about Renata Adler

Renata Adler’s two novels, Speedboat (1976) and Pitch Dark (1988), have just been reissued by New York Review Books.  I was pleased to see a recent New York article about her. Here is my two cents:

1. Gone: The Last Days of The New Yorker (2000) is one of my favorite books. It can be summed up like this: Genius corrupts. I first came across it in the Berkeley Barnes & Noble. I couldn’t stop reading it. When I left the store hours later my scooter had a parking ticket.

2. Her libel lawsuit is described here.

3. She wrote a book about the Bilderberg Group called Private Capacity. It was announced then cancelled.

4. During a panel discussion televised on C-Span, she took a phone call. It appeared to be from her daughter.

5. For several years she taught journalism at Boston University. A student said she told great stories.

6. In a book review, she said that Woodward and Bernstein’s Deep Throat was made up. Apparently she was wrong about that.

7. During a dinner I had with Aaron Swartz last summer, he praised her article attacking Pauline Kael (“The Perils of Pauline”, 1980).

8. When her article about Kael came out, a friend of mine said, Now she’ll be known as the person who attacked Kael. My friend was wrong. She is better known as the person attacked by eight articles in the New York Times when Gone was published. One short non-best-selling book, eight negative articles from the most powerful pulpit on earth.

9. Gone and some books by Jane Jacobs were the only books I took to China. I also adore Totto-Chan but I suppose I have memorized it. I mostly read books by men, so I am puzzled that all my most favorite books are by women. A Chinese friend of mine stayed in my Beijing apartment while I was gone. Her English isn’t very good but she praised Gone, which she called Lost.

4 Responses to “Two Cents about Renata Adler”

  1. BenSix Says:

    She wrote a book about the Bilderberg Group called Private Capacity. It was announced then withdrawn.

    Allegedly, it was cancelled because “a full length book treatment of the subject is probably not necessary”. Yearly assurances that the conference is merely a few old blokes playing gold notwithstanding, I find that very hard to believe.

  2. Paul Says:

    I love reading the Amazon reviews of _Gone_. There are a bunch of 1-star reviews right around the year of its publication. Not a lot of people wrote reviews on Amazon back then; it’s pretty obvious what was going on.

    Adler is a treasure.

    Seth: I agree, the Amazon reviews are interesting.

  3. Bryan Says:

    Seth,

    Is #7 based on personal knowledge? I couldn’t find anything in the first link saying Swartz praised Adler’s Kael attack.

    I’ll for sure read _Gone_ but Pauline rulez.

    Seth: Yes, #7 is based on personal knowledge. I had dinner with Aaron.

  4. Elisa Says:

    Re: “I mostly read books by men, so I am puzzled that all my most favorite books are by women.”

    A theory: It’s more difficult for women to be taken seriously as authors (see the gender counts on the VIDA website) so they have to be better to rise to the top. Along the same lines, maybe you should choose a female surgeon?

    Seth: Plausible theory.