What is really going on here? For decades Renata Adler has been asking and answering this question with unmatched urgency. As a staff writer at The New Yorker
. Adler reported on civil rights from Selma, Alabama; the wars in Biafra, and the Middle East; the Nixon impeachment inquiry; cultural life in Cuba. She also reported on politics and culture in the United States, films (as chief film critic for The New York Times
), books, television, pop music, the press. She has taken risks in order to give us the news, not the “news” we have become accustomed to–celebrity journalism, conventional wisdom, received ideas–but the actual story, an account unfettered by ideology or consensus, when too many other writers have joined the pack. The more recent pieces are concerned with, in her words, “misrepresentation, coercion, and abuse of public process, and, to a degree, the journalist’s role in it.”. Adler brilliantly unravels the tangled narratives that pass for the resolution of scandal and finds the threads that others miss, the ones that explain what really is going on –from the Watergate scandal, to the “preposterous” Kenneth Starr report during the Clinton impeachment inquiry, and the story of then New York Times
reporter Jayson Blair. She writes brilliantly too about the Supreme Court and the power of its rulings, including its fateful decision in Bush v. Gore.
The Best Books of 2015 (So Far). Two years after the reappearance in print of her novels Speedboat and Pitch Dark, Adler has returned again as a reporter, essayist, and critic — one of the best we’ve had on all three fronts. … and the truth is, though she’s been near-silent for some time, she only ever got better. – Christian Lorentzen, New York Magazine (July 23, 2015)
“The wonderfully funny, acute Renata Adler is almost as good an essayist as a novelist … It doesn’t mean much to say that Renata Adler’s journalism isn’t quite as interesting as her novels — almost nothing is as interesting as Renata Adler’s novels. … If Adler has an heir it might be someone like the recently retired TV satirist Jon Stewart, who shares both her moral wryness and love for America. Perhaps the real loss is that nobody quite this careful is paying attention.” — Daniel Swift, Spectator, UK;
” It is Adler’s sort of death’s-head wit that makes her such a visionary reporter — in the Letter from Biafra, for example: “Suddenly a shrieking, giggling band of of eleven young men and three boys passed through the market, as though carried away by some enervating, mocking joke. These were some of the ‘artillery cases’ one sees all over Biafra, people claiming some local variety of shell shock and traveling always in packs.” The “enervating, mocking joke” here — if we listen for it — is the failure of the UN to prevent or arrest a genocide, and beyond that the “sheer, bitterly comic ugliness of human suffering.”
“If Adler were a man … would she be one of the boys —celebrated and honored as a journalist-hero in the popular mind? With the electricity of her prose, I think she would. The publication of After the Tall Timber may move her closer in, or place a seal upon her exile. Either way, she’ll be proved right.”— Barnes & Noble Review.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Renata Adler is back! It feels momentous and just plain correct that we now have After the Tall Timber, a new collection of Adler’s nonfiction, “–Abby Aguirre, Vogue
“One of the last essays in the book is, hilariously. about Bush v. Gore. Remember that? What a time in our shared heritage. … I can’t stop thinking about these sentences, both their meaning and their structure. Because she is so right about something we’ve all experienced but so rarely name. … Last week I mentioned that I was reading the new collection of Renata Adler’s essays. Now I’m going to mention it again, because the entire book is so fucking good. You have to read it. — Haley Mlotek, The Hairpin