Renata Adler 1938–
American novelist, journalist, critic, and short story writer.
A journalist and critic whose articles have been collected in Toward a Radical Middle (1969) and A Year in the Dark (1970), Adler is also the author of two successful novels. Both Speedboat (1976) and Pitch Dark (1983) are composed of seemingly unconnected passages that challenge readers to find meaning. Like her nonfiction, Adler's novels examine the issues and mores of contemporary life.
Toward a Radical Middle includes essays on national and international social and political issues. Critics applauded the collection, noting that Adler had skillfully chosen details to provide insight into many of the troubling issues of the 1960s and that she had managed to offer meaningful social commentary without intruding on her subject. A Year in the Dark is a compendium of film reviews Adler wrote for The New York Times. Although some critics felt that Adler's lack of formal training in film studies diminished her criticism, it was generally recognized that she had expanded the role of a movie reviewer by writing a wide range of articles, from a report on the arts in Cuba to reviews of pornographic and foreign-language films.
Speedboat, Adler's first novel, met with generally favorable response, even though many critics found it difficult to classify the book. They hesitated to call it a novel because the work comprises short scenes that overlap and recall one another without forming a single narrative line. Other critics maintained that Speedboat was a unified work and praised its mixture of journalistic reportage and autobiography. The success of Speedboat led to great anticipation of Adler's next novel. Pitch Dark is the story of Kate Ennis and her attempt to end a nine-year romance with her married lover. Like Speedboat, Pitch Dark emphasizes particular and apparently disparate moments rather than a sequential narrative. Some critics found Pitch Dark solipsistic and charged that Adler did not finally draw the fragments of the novel into one continuously interesting work. Most, however, concluded that Adler was successful in making the pattern of moments both satisfying and effective.
(See also CLC, Vol. 8; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 49-52; and Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 5.)