…”Toward a Radical Middle,” a collection of reviews and reportage by Renata Adler, all of which previously appeared in “The New Yorker.” I had read the collection when in first came out, in 1969, and when I spotted it on Café Bongo’s Free Shelf, I thought it warranted a second look. Adler, now 82, whose writing career has not been without bumps and gaps, including a digression to get a degree from Yale Law School, has drawn renewed interest lately. Her two novels have been reissued by NYRB Classics and a best-of collection of her non-fiction was published last year.
Adler is a fine writer, with a deep (sometimes, for me at least, impenetrable) intelligence, and she can be as nasty as anyone you run into. It was fun to see where she turned her eye and how her judgments, both in terms of what she deemed important and how she analyzed them, held up. Does anyone, for instance, really care about Herb Gold enough to appreciate the hammer she smashed him with? Her optimism for the Mid-East after the Six Day War and the beneficial aspects of encounter groups seem misplaced, but her portrayal of Sunset Strip teens sets Charlie Manson lurking in the wings and her devastating depiction of the New Politics Convention in 1967 still has smoke rising that can sear the lungs.