Tag Archives: Speedboat

When Movie Critics Attack

After the Tall Timber

Is it wrong to remember Renata Adler primarily for her bitter, public fights with Pauline Kael?

When Adler’s two brilliant works of semi-fiction—Speedboat at Pitch Dark—were re-released to great acclaim a couple of years ago, she seemed poised to go down in history as a master stylist in her own right. So I’m kind of afraid that the publication of this new collection of Adler’s nonfiction—After the Tall Timber—will set Adler’s legacy back. In all of its 528 pages, Adler’s pugnacious film criticism and her feud with Pauline Kael are clearly the most interesting parts—simply because everything else she reported on feels so… dated?

Adler brought her considerable intellect to bear on the pressing issues of her time, but the pressing issues of her time are pretty snooze-inducing, in retrospect. Robert Bork. Biafra. Jayson Blair. The Kenneth Starr report. There is plenty to say about these issues, and for the most part it has all been said, and we have all moved on. Apparently the 1970s to 1990s, when Adler wrote these pieces, were a great time to be a film critic, and an awfully dull time to extrapolate on American headline news.

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Books that Mattered in 2013: Extraordinary Books by Women

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The last 12 months were crammed with great and celebrated books. The Flamethrowers. Men We Reaped. The Goldfinch. Life After Life. Vampires in the Lemon Grove. The Interestings. Lean In. MaddAddam. Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin. Booker prize winner The Luminaries. Flannery O’Connor’s Prayer Journal. Tampa. Night Film. Bough Down. The Lowland. Speedboat. The Woman Upstairs. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roose­velt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.  

If you’re not too busy trying to read them all, you might want to go see the adaptation of Catching Fire in the theater. While you’re out, you may also feel the urge to pick up some Alice Munro following her well-deserved Nobel Prize in Literature.

Then, if you get a chance, you might see if any of the books written by men in 2013 are worth reading.

As we suspected back in August, 2013 was the Year of Women. This year, offerings from Thomas Pynchon, Dave Eggers (both of whom, FYI, wrote books with female protagonists), and even the darling George Saunders we’re overshadowed by the excitement around The Luminaries, by 28-year-old Elanor Catton, or The Flamethrowers, the second novel from Rachel Kushner. Allie Brosh had ’em laughing, and dressing up in costume, at readings of Hyperbole and a Half around the country, and Joyce Carol Oates’ annual novel The Accursed was said by many to be one of her best, or at least one of her strangest. The trend was so strong that J.K. Rowling tried to release The Cuckoo’s Calling under a man’s name, only to be swiftly revealed as her true female self.

Strangely, no one seems to have much noticed The Year of Women, or wagered a guess as to why so much of the interesting and ambitious writing of the past year came from women. We welcome your ideas, but for now we’ll go ahead and take this as a good sign. The books above were never labeled or categorized as “great women’s books” — they’re just great books that people loved. It’s the best rebuke to all the Sad Literary Men and Great Male Narcissists since, well, Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., and has made for an extraordinary year of reading.

See other Books that Mattered in 2013.

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Books that Mattered in 2013: Speedboat

Speedboat by Renata Adler

Because 37 years after its original publication, Renata Adler’s ahead-of-its-time novel Speedboat has gone from cult favorite to undisputed classic. In the process, Adler is being reevaluated as one of the great curmudgeons of literary criticism.

See all the Books that Mattered in 2013.

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Flavorwire: 50 Books Everyone Should Read


Following on to Questlove’s year-by-year breakdown of the albums that defined his youth, Flavorwire this week published a list(icle?), year-by-year, of 50 Books Everyone Should Read.

Starting in 1963, the list picks the most necessary, though not necessarily the best, reads from each year. As with any endeavor of this size, there’s plenty to love and plenty to What? about, and even some to WTF? about. For example, WTF is The Master and Margarita from 1967? And also, WTF happened in 1969, when the competition for Flavorwire’s pick I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings included Slaughterhouse-FivePortnoy’s ComplaintThe Left Hand of Darkness; and Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle?

Pretty good year.

We were glad to see some Fiction Advocate favorites make the list, like Gravity’s Rainbow (1973); Speedboat (1976); Infinite Jest (1996); A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010); and presumptive favorite The Flame Throwers (2013). I’ve also heard that Brian Hurley has a bad habit of getting buzzed and weeping about how much he loved Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (1970).

Read the full list here.

 Michael Moats


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Some Gatsbys are Greater than Others

FA Gatsby CoverLast week, the New York Times reported that The Great Gatsby “is dividing the nation’s booksellers with dueling paperback editions: the enigmatic blue cover of the original and the movie tie-in book that went on sale Tuesday, a brash, flashy version with Leonardo DiCaprio front and center.” The hero of the story was Kevin Cassem at New York’s McNally Jackson Books, who explained, “We’re selling the classic cover and have no intention of selling the new one.” Mr. Cassem, saying what we’ve all been thinking, added: “I think it would bring shame to anyone who was trying to read that book on the subway.”

Not surprisingly, these feelings are not shared by the people of Wal-Mart, who don’t tend to evaluate things based on subway cred, and more often think in terms of amassing “fresh green” that is “commensurate to [their] capacity for wonder.” The mega store will be selling the novel in the Leonardo DiCaprio cover and only the Leonardo DiCaprio cover, which, honestly, will be much more effective at luring people into a story that couldn’t be further from everyday low prices.

The good news in all of this is that people are talking about The Great Gatsby and thinking about good, old fashioned book covers. At this point in the year, sales of Gatsby are projected to put it among the best selling books of the year, allowing it to serve as “a literary palate cleanser to follow 2012, when the American book-buying public gorged on the Fifty Shades erotica series.”

Over the years, there have been many different covers of The Great Gatsby, some greater than others. The Times again has the scoop, and has collected images of the book from over the years and around the world.

(FYI — McNally Jackson’s Book of the Month is Renata Adler’s Speedboat, which Brian Hurley is excited to tell you all about.)

– Michael Moats


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