There are two ways of looking at life as a New Yorker. You can either see life as fun and coincidental, peopled with characters and odd interactions that prompt you to say with some frequency, “That is why I could never live anywhere else!” Or you see life here as a sometimes frightening collection of fragmented encounters, the meanings of which you will never know.
We’ll say I’m the latter with moments of the former.
Which may be why I’m so in love right now with Renata Adler’s Speedboat, a novel about being 30-something in New York City and environs that is told exclusively through story fragments. The morals dangle somewhere beyond the margins, leaving the reader wondering what purpose the story serves. As someone who has spent the better part of the last decade pondering the meaning of narrative (do we impose it because we’re frightened by its absence or is it always there, waiting to be discovered? (I’m a real fun guy)), Speedboat is delicious reading. Not to mention Adler’s way with a dry line or her pitch perfect skewering of a type. Drunks, cheap nostalgia, “self-evident” phrases—all come in for a dunking from Adler, and I devour it all with glee. I didn’t love her second novel, Pitch Dark, as much (both have been recently reissued by NYBR) but I can wholly recommend Speedboat.