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After the Tall Timber

After the Tall Timber

Collected Nonfiction

by Renata Adler, preface by Michael Wolff

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What is really going on here? For decades Renata Adler has been asking and answering this question with unmatched urgency. In her essays and long-form journalism, she has captured the cultural zeitgeist, distrusted the accepted wisdom, and written stories that would otherwise go untold. As a staff writer at The New Yorker from 1963 to 2001, Adler reported on civil rights from Selma, Alabama; on the war in Biafra, the Six-Day War, and the Vietnam War; on the Nixon impeachment inquiry and Congress; on cultural life in Cuba. She has also written about cultural matters in the United States, films (as chief film critic for The New York Times), books, politics, television, and pop music. Like many journalists, she has put herself in harm’s way 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. She has been unafraid to speak up when too many other writers have joined the pack. In this sense, Adler is one of the few independent journalists writing in America today.

This collection of Adler’s nonfiction draws on Toward a Radical Middle (a selection of her earliest New Yorker pieces), A Year in the Dark (her film reviews), and Canaries in the Mineshaft (a selection of essays on politics and media), and also includes uncollected work from the past two decades. 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.” With a brilliant literary and legal mind, Adler parses power by analyzing language: the language of courts, of journalists, of political figures, of the man on the street. In doing so, she 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 here—from the Watergate scandal, to the “preposterous” Kenneth Starr report submitted to the House during the Clinton impeachment inquiry, to the plagiarism and fabrication scandal of the former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair. And she writes extensively about the Supreme Court and the power of its rulings, including its fateful decision in Bush v. Renata Adler, preface by Michael Wolff

Additional Book Information

Series: New York Review Books
ISBN: 9781590178799
Pages: 528
Publication Date:


One of the most important postwar writers (and prose stylists), Adler here covers everything from generational silliness to civil rights in the South. It’s all the harder to put down because it sometimes boils your blood.

Selected as one of “The Best Books of 2015” by Vulture/

Selected as one of Publishers Weekly‘s Top Ten Spring 2015 Politics titles.

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. The new collection charts her progression from reporter to Yale Law–trained parser of constitutional betrayals and journalistic malpractice, and the truth is, though she’s been near-silent for some time, she only ever got better.

Renata Adler is a clarion, often controversial critic, reporter, and novelist highly visible in the 1960s and 1970s. She was as tuned-in to the zeitgeist and as intrepid in her interpretation and articulation as Joan Didion and Susan Sontag…After the Tall Timber is a sumptuously intelligent and exhilarating collection by a courageous and committed writer of integrity, artistry, and independence. A provocative and elevating book that recalibrates journalistic standards, and sharpens our perception of the recent past and its influence on our even more harrowing present. Readers will hope that Adler’s triumphant return to print will open the way for new works. We need Adler’s brilliance, wit, and lucidity.

The eloquent and combative essayist Renata Adler presents dispatches from the frontlines of the 1960s and ‘70s.
—Everett Jones, Publishers Weekly

She is one of the most brilliant—that is, vivid, intense, astute, and penetrating—essayists in contemporary letters, and most contrarian: much of what you think she will passionately undo.
—Michael Wolff, The Guardian

Fiercely argued, sharp-witted…Adler, whose writing for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, Harper’s, and Vanity Fair has enlightened and enraged so many, is just whom we need for some perspective on our strange new world.
Daily News

Acutely reasoned to the point of wittiness, and occasionally outright funny…[Adler] most visibly dramatizes…the contest of a single reasonable mind against the brute forces of institutional behavior.
—Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times

An observer of acute intelligence and discriminating sensibility.

Nobody writes better prose than Renata Adler.
—John Leonard, Vanity Fair

Adler’s opinions are as reasoned as they are relentless….These selections, united by a persistent theme of the “misrepresentation, coercion, and abuse of public process, and… the journalist’s role in it,” demonstrate that Adler’s uncompromising insistence on accuracy and accountability is what ultimately makes her writing so incisive.
Publishers Weekly

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