I use the word ‘classic’ sparingly and with caution. Gone are the days when it meant old, baffling, accompanied by erudite notes – a book that still demands study. Classics are now ubiquitous: modern classics, women’s classics, children’s classics, classic thrillers, cult classics and the New York Review of Books’ classics. The list includes Dante, Sir Thomas Browne and Colette, but it also advertises Evan S Connell’s The Diary of a Rapist and two peculiar novels by Renata Adler, who worked as a journalist on the New Yorker for forty years. Her two books are not classics, but curiosities.
Speedboat was published in sections from 1971 onwards and in its entirety in 1976. Pitch Dark is a more coherent text, first published in 1983. Both these books remind me how alien Americans can seem to Europeans and how different our literary languages are. Speedboat is described by its publishers