After years as a journalist, essayist, and critic, Renata Adler turned her sharply observant eye to fiction in her first novel, Speedboat. Published in 1976, Adler chronicled a New York City and United States filled with upheaval, protest, and government mistrust.
This sense of disconnect is heightened by the novel’s formally inventive structure, a series of overlapping anecdotes — by turns anxious and wry, distant and intimate — witnessing brief moments in the lives of neighbors and passersby, as though the reader were the guest at an exclusive dinner party or resident of a New York City brownstone. Indeed, a portion of the novel was first published in the January 27th, 1973 issue of the New Yorker as “Brownstone.”
The New York Public Library has Adler’s original typescript for this short story, with the original title “Time and Charges: Something Tells Me That We May Have Missed Our Exit.” From these first words, we see an early version of the text that Adler reshaped into Speedboat’s final form, giving us a glimpse into her writing process. (Click here for a larger version of the above.)
As part of our month-long Dear NYC series, we're looking at New York City gems hidden away at the New York Public Library. The NYPL’s four research centers offer the public access to over 55 million items, including rare books, manuscripts, letters, diaries, photographs, prints, maps, ephemera, and more. Integral to these robust collections is the Library’s extensive material related to New York City, and as NY works to come together, cope, heal and recover from the 2020 pandemic, economic uncertainty, and the many issues that divide us, it is important to look at that history and remember: New York is resilient. New York is strong. New York has seen its share of hard times. And, as always, with Patience and Fortitude (the names given to the Library’s beloved lions in 1933 by Mayor LaGuardia for the virtues New Yorkers needed to get through the Great Depression) we will get through it, together.