SPEEDBOAT by Renata Adler is a book that is all style, almost too much style. The style works in the sense that this is not a boring read and it stops inches before slipping into gimmickry.
The style is short paragraphs which are vignettes often with an ironic twist at the end. The vignettes are filled with oddball characters, musings on different philosophical issues, remembrance of things past. These are loosely framed around school and then work and also travels the narrator has taken.
Adler does a good job minimizing the snotty post-modernist New York accent. She retains enough ironic distance that none of this comes off seeming too precious.
While certain images from this book will stick in my mind (the Argentine polo-playing existential psychiatrist for one), a lot of SPEEDBOAT was forgotten as soon as I read it. I think the framing mechanism could have been tighter so as to have things that happen relate directly to the chapter heading.
But I have to give this book some kudos for originality of style and while it’s not particularly deep, her use of language as it relates to flow is impressive. She writes like a journalist, she writes like someone attending a wild non-stop party describing the other guests.