“She Was a Dynamite Girl and He Was an Aces Fellow” — A Passage from Renata Adler’s Speedboat

A passage from Renata Adler’s marvelous and strange novel Speedboat

She was a dynamite girl and he was an aces fellow. On the day he at last agreed by phone to marry her, the switchboard operators were overjoyed. For six months they had listened, in sympathy and indignation, to the tears, the threats, the partings and reconciliations. They were so unequivocally for the girl that only the purest professionalism kept them, at times, from breaking in. On the day Tim, after calls to his best friend, his firs wife, and his therapist, gave in at last, the oldest operator, who had been on the switchboard for twenty years, actually wept. The other two told the receptionist, at lunch. All four ladies had a drink, and then bought a card of slightly obscene felicitations. They had wavered toward the sentimental, but rejected it as basically unswinging. They did not sign the card. Tim and his girl, who had been breaking up once again on the day they received it (she was packing; they were in his apartment, were appalled. As a result of the card, and discussions of what to do about it—what it implied, who knew and who didn’t—they married.