My experience of narrative — particularly in New York City, where every approaching train cuts off every approaching thought, where the constant abrasion of the unknown with the insane desensitizes, so that I’m often left with white noise, and jagged notes from the digital world seep further into reality — is piecemeal. I had a friend who assured me that it was impossible to read certain books in the 21st-century city. Henry James, for instance. You need a quiet nook, she said. Otherwise, ‘before you’ve even finished one sentence’ — but she was cut off. I became fascinated with this idea of a patchwork approach. Certainly, it’s nothing new, but who did it well?
“Scrolling through news bits and status updates between passages of Speedboat, I’m floored by how the novel reads as a somewhat verbose Twitter feed. That is, verbose for Twitter. Succinct for anything else.”
In the Wake of Speedboat: On Renata Adler’s 1976 Novel by Eric Dean Wilson
You see things differently when you’re in love. Two outpatients from a methadone clinic slap each other on the corner. A goiter rides the crosstown bus. We attend a dinner party; none of the dogs have tails. Men in the map room of the New York Public Library surveil passing breasts. Nights slip by. I sit on the curb outside a magazine launch and watch a famous author pour cold water down a woman’s arm. ‘Don’t be jealous,’ my companion says impatiently, cupping his own elbows. ‘He’s only applying a temporary tattoo.’
I was in love and then I wasn’t, and sometime during the drifting gray interim I was told by a bookseller friend to read Renata Adler’s 1976 debut, Speedboat, a novel that had long been out of print but was absolutely, he insisted, worth the trouble of the search.
”[Kingsley] Amis and [Philip] Larkin complain about women as often as they complain about writers, though here their troubles diverge. ‘I really do not think it likely I shall ever get into the same bed as anyone again because it is so much trouble, almost as much trouble as standing for parliament,’ writes Larkin, who was stooped, balding and myopic. Amis, who was tall and broad-shouldered, with a full head of hair, responds by regaling Larkin with tales of the multiple women he was juggling.”
- Keith Gessen introduces Lucky Jim
To celebrate the re-release of two books by iconic British author Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim and The Old Devils, New York Review Books Classics and Vol. 1 Brooklyn present an evening dedicated to his life and work. Rosie Schaap (New York Times Magazine Drink writer and author of the forthcoming book Drinking With Men), Parul Sehgal (Editor at the New York Times Book Review) and Maud Newton (Writer and critic) will all share their thoughts on Mr. Amis. And since no celebration of the life and work of Mr. Amis is truly complete without cocktails, Brooklyn Gin will be on hand to serve gin and tonics.
October 11, 2012, 7 pm – 8:30 pm
Housingworks Bookstore Cafe
126 Crosby Street,
New York, NY
Come out tonight and enjoy a cocktail or five. We’d love to meet you.
Stoner tried to explain to his father what he intended to do, tried to evoke in him his own sense of significance and purpose. He listened to his words fall as if from the mouth of another, and watched his father’s face, which received those words as a stone receives the repeated blows of a fist.
For me, reading Amsterdam Stories was like watching Casablanca. Much of Casablanca has become cliché. The famous lines are quoted so often, and the famous scenes are such a part of our culture, we’ve seen the movie before we’ve actually seen it. And yet, even though we’ve heard them a hundred times, even though we know they’re coming, the famous lines are still powerful. They are surrounded by such inherent and integral beauty, that what should make us roll our eyes, takes our breath away. In Casablanca we hear “a hill of beans” and “here’s looking at you, kid.” In Amsterdam Stories we read “And I puff on my pipe in all humility, and feel like God himself, who is infinity itself. I sit there aimlessly. God’s aim is aimlessness. But to keep this awareness always is granted to no man.