She is frail. The Avedon on the dust jacket shows a blond Shelley Duvall with a touch of anorexia. Is that important? Possibly. Just as a person wouldn’t be likely to say to an anorexigenic personal­ity, “How’s it going–chubby?” it would be hard to say to Renata Adler, after looking into those eyes of a pained doe, “Why don’t you look for a new line of work–like waiting tables in an all-night joint?” Negative announcements about her work are hard to come by. Speedboat, her penultimate book (for now, anyway), evoked the designation “an amazing writer of fiction” from Updike; John Leonard trotted out bizarre comparisons to Camus and others. And there were more, many more. Adler must have read these reviews and taken them to heart. Possibly to soul–but then religious metaphors are passe, aren’t they? 

Pitch Dark, (Alfred A. Knopf; New York) is one of the most pretentious books ever to be published (don’t look for that blurb on the paperback edition), which is an amazing feat, given that it is a stylishly slim 144 pages. Adler apparently believes that there is something profound about her elliptically rendered tale of a mistress given the boot … or was she? With all of the attendant nonsense, it’s hard to say for certain. One thing is a sure thing, however: she babbles, yes, that’s the word, babbles. About whatever occurs to her, which isn’t the same as saying “About whatever comes to mind,” for that brings thinking into the discus­sion. Once she makes a statement, she tends to say it again a few pages on. And often another time or two for good mea­sure. At one point (and then at several others) she writes, “This is the age of crime.” It certainly is. Pitcb Dark is one of the proofs.