Renata Adler on Sadness, Selfies, and Losing

Consider Renata Adler one of the defiantly smart women of the age.

renata-2She was a star of the culture pages of the New York Times in the mid-60s then for decades at The New Yorker. These days, her tart, tweet-ready epigrams are a hit with millennials and 30-somethings hooked on language and the wide world. We link her to dauntless, independent spirits like Joan Didion, Camille Paglia, Susan Sontag, Mary McCarthy, and Julia Child. She’s a match also for Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal—all of them readers, stylists, and watchers open to surprise.

David Foster Wallace was a Renata Adler fan (who spoke of her as an influence, too). So, on the occasion of our hour about DFW and the air of personal and social sadness that lingers around him, we poured Renata a scotch and sat together for a wide-ranging conversation about American life. What’s been going on, we asked, with our nation’s mood and history since the Vietnam War? In the age of the selfie, how should we be telling our country’s story?

Guest List
Renata Adler
Novelist, essayist, and cultural critic of our time. Renata's newly reissued novels, out in paperback from New York Review Books, are Speedboat and Pitch Dark. After the Tall Timber is a new collection of her non-fiction.

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