11 January 2014

Speedboat (Renata Adler)

This book, you guys. THIS BOOK.

Renata Adler's Speedboat is all voice--a novel without a narrative, plot, or climax. And yet, though one could certainly apply the dread epithet "experimental," it's easy to read. Fun, even!

It's "about" (as far as that goes) Jen Fain,  a young female reporter living in New York City in the 70s. She teaches sometimes, she goes to Elaine's, she has a few casual romantic entanglements, she hangs out with artist types; and she tells us about them in a succession of anecdotes, rarely more than a page long, sometimes just a few sentences. It's too disjointed to be stream-of-consciousness--puddles-of-consciousness perhaps? And not so much a character study, because Jen studies the people around her with sardonic wit (sardonic witty ladies are my favorite!), keeping herself at bay. Somehow, though, these discrete episodes build on each other, not cresting to an epiphany, but documenting a setting, internal and external, in all its small dysfunctions and quiet victories.

And Speedboat is full of what are, frankly, perfect sentences. Like the very last one: "It could be that the sort of sentence one wants right here is the kind that runs, and laughs, and slides, and stops right on a dime." Yes, that is exactly the kind of sentence one wants, holy crap.

P.S. I've decided to give my reading some structure this year by adopting different themes every month, like I've previously done with Romance February or Newbery November. I'm starting off simple with TBR January--the goal being to get through all the books waiting on my shelf that have been there since before I moved to Wichita. Last June.

(FTC disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from NYRB Classics, in exchange for an honest review.)

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