Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Renata Adler at The Center for Fiction, Darbar, New York City Ballet & "Hannah Arendt" at Montclair Film Festival - Part 1

During the past few weeks we've attended a batch of noteworthy events - both large scale & small format - that we'd just like to single out (below) in this synoptic overview ... just a few events, that is, out of numerous readings/presentations, dance performances & films seen in and around the New York Metro area.

Renata Adler
Center for Fiction

On April 16th, a petite, rather thin,75-year-old Renata Adler - idiosyncratic journalist, novelist &, well, tendentious film critic - appeared at The Center for Fiction to a standing-room-only crowd in conjunction with the reissue by NYRB  "Classics," the book-publishing arm of The New York Review of Booksof her only two published (short) novels: Speedboat (1976; winner of the Ernest Hemingway Award for Best First Novel) and Pitch Dark (1983). Typically, during these sorts of events, Ms. Adler  read from her two most celebrated novelistic works, and from other sources (a new novel, some reviews) ... and generously answered questions, both of a personal and professional nature. Still quite the character, Adler also submitted to a lengthy interview, posted online at The Center web site where she spoke of "creating sentences, weathering controversy, dealing with the necessary annoyance[s] of computers," as well as admitting to her feelings of awe when facing the likes of master fiction writers such as Isaac Babel & Henry James - and, surprisingly, in facing Oprah.

According to The Center for Fiction event handout & thorough online publicity, Ms. Adler was born in Milan and raised in Connecticut. She received a B.A. from Bryn Mawr; an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard (working under I.A. Richards & Roman Jakobson); a doctorate from the Sorbonne where she studied philosophy, structuralism & linguistics under the tutelage of Claude Levi-Strauss; and a J.D. from Yale Law School, along with an LL.D. (honorary) from Georgetown. Adler became a staff writer at The New Yorker in 1963 and, except for a year as the chief film critic of The New York Times, remained at The New Yorker for the next four decades. Her books, in addition to the two reissued novels mentioned above, include A Year in the Dark (1969); Toward a Radical Middle (1970); Reckless Disregard: Westmoreland v. CBS et al., Sharon v. Time (1986); Canaries in the Mineshaft (2001); Gone: The Last Days of The New Yorker (1999); and Irreparable Harm: The U.S. Supreme Court and The Decision That Made George W. Bush President (2004). 

The reading/presentation proved interesting, even galvanizing in spots, and Ms. Adler's face & her voice will be etched in our collective memories for some time to come. She graciously signed the colorful new NYRB paperback editions of Speedboat  ("a novel, a memoir, a lyric essay?") & Pitch Dark ("a book of questions, questions that bedevil" the protagonist, Kate Ennis ... which adds up to [according to The Boston Globe] "a moving, infuriating, tantalizing book") amidst enthusiastic guests, with their cups of wine, who had just composed the rather full & involved audience.

Just so you know, The Center for Fiction, located at 17 East 47th, between 5th and Madison (tel. 212/755-6710), offers numerous programs, focusing on writers (short story writers, memoir writers); writing processes; seminars & master classes; literary fiction writing, crime fiction, novels, novelists ... and many of the events are freeDo check out  their web site and you will find, for example, that the celebrated novelist, James Salter, will be reading from (and signing) his new novel, All That Is, on the evening of May 15th at 7:00.  Might not be too late to reserve tickets & attend!
If you do check out their web site, you will find out immediately that The Center for Fiction - which was founded in 1820 as the Mercantile Library - "is the only organization in the United States devoted solely to the vital art of fiction." The Center's stated mission consists in encouraging "people to read and value fiction and to support and celebrate its creation and enjoyment."  They go on to state that ...

   With all our resources, including our exceptional book collection, our beautiful  
     reading room, our expanding website, and our ever-growing array of creative 
     programs, we seek  to serve the reading public, to build a larger audience for    
     fiction, and to create a place where readers and writers can share their passion for 

The Center for fiction is the only not-for-profit literary organization in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to "celebrating fiction" ...  working "every day to connect readers and writers." And, The Center is clearly growing, cultivating an audience for its varied & various programs and, in my view, is indeed succeeding in creating a nexus where writers & readers can share their passion for literature

The Center - Bookshop
Finally, it might be to your advantage to visit The Center Bookshop, on the ground floor of their historic building (again, at 17 East 47th St.) to witness the large selection of new and used volumes and "gifts for readers at great prices." The Center reminds us that beyond the web-based  bookstore, "we still maintain an old-fashioned bookshop where visitors can find exciting new voices, undiscovered gems, beloved classics and books signed by many of the leading writers who are appearing at The Center, along with lit t-shirts, note cards and more! We stock all reading group books, and all of our stock is 25% off the cover price, with an additional 10% off for members. Used books start at just $2!"

M. Proust
I look forward to becoming acquainted with fellow fiction enthusiasts at The Center where we can chat about, listen to - and indulge in - the work of such varied writers as Claire Messud, Jim Shepard, Jamie Quatro, James Salter, Sam Lipsyte, Rivka Galchen, Don DeLillo, Louis Begley, Roxana Robinson, Luis Alberto Urrea,  William H. Gass, even Marcel Proust ... and many, many more!

If you plan on attending an event at The Center for Fiction, I'd suggest a visit to nearby Darbar (for lunch or dinner; at 152 E. 46 St., Tel. 212/681-4500), an Indian resto & lounge, with friendly service that is, according to Zagat, "dependably delicious as well as affordable."  It is, indeed, a friendly spot, with an attentive & helpful wait staff delivering "the goods" from a kitchen adept at preparing extremely tasty Indian delicacies - from appetizers to Tandoori breads, Tandoori entrees to chicken, lamb & goat mains, as well as fish courses and succulent vegetable main plates, like Eggplant Korma (cubed eggplant prepared in a creamy sauce; @ $11.) or Eggplant Bhartha (baked eggplant sauteed with onions & tomatoes; @ $11).   

On this particular visit, three of us ate quite a lot of food - a few appetizer plates, an entree each, an order of Garlic Naan, coupled with plentiful Basmati rice, a few glasses of cold Indian beer, and a glass or two of Malbec) - all adding up to a small feast for less than $30. per person!  The best dishes proved to be the Chicken La Jawab (or chicken cooked with ginger, garlic, tomatoes & chilies and sprinkled with fresh herbs, ginger & spices; @ $13) ... and the Chef's Special Chicken Malai (chicken simmered with aromatic spices in a cream sauce; @ $13).  
Garlic Naan Bread

Two of the appetizers proved superbly tasty:  the Crab Cake (a chunk of Maine crab flavored with curry leaves & ginger; @ $10) and the Gobi Manchurian (cauliflowers sauteed with ginger, garlic & soy sauce; also $10).  Indeed, there is much on the rich Darbar menu to explore upon a return trip!


  1. I am interested in utilizing the Renata Adler picture with the red in the backgound and would be very grateful if you had the kindness to impart me any information on who holds the image rights to the pic. Best

  2. No idea, in this case, who holds the copyright to this Renata Adler photo.

    H J Scheiber, PhD