By Rachel Kushner
(Scribner Book Company, Paperback, 9781439142011, 383pp.)
Publication Date: January 2014
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"New York" magazine's number one book of the year and named a Best Book of 2013 by "The Wall Street Journal";" Vogue;" "O, The Oprah Magazine"; "Los Angeles Times";" The San Francisco Chronicle";" The New Yorker;" "Time;" "Flavorwire;" "Salon"; "Slate"; "The Daily Beast"; "Bookish;" "The Jewish Daily Forward"; "The Austin American-Statesman";" Complex"; and "The Millions," Rachel Kushner's "The Flamethrowers" was a finalist for the National Book Award and a "New York Times "bestseller. Includes a new essay by the author, with a folio of images.
Reno, so-called because of the place of her birth, comes to New York intent on turning her fascination with motorcycles and speed into art. Her arrival coincides with an explosion of activity--artists colonize a deserted and industrial SoHo, stage actions in the East Village, blur the line between life and art. Reno is submitted to a sentimental education of sorts--by dreamers, poseurs, and raconteurs in New York and by radicals in Italy, where she goes with her lover to meet his estranged and formidable family. Ardent, vulnerable, and bold, Reno is a fiercely memorable observer, superbly realized by Rachel Kushner.
"Superb...Scintillatingly alive...A pure explosion of now."--"The New Yorker"
Rachel Kushner’s new novel, The Flamethrowers, is out in April, 2013. Her debut novel, Telex from Cuba, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the California Book Award, and a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book. It was named a best book by the Washington Post Book Book World, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Seattle Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Christian Science Monitor, and Amazon. Kushner's fiction and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Paris Review, The Believer, Artforum, Bookforum, Fence, Bomb, Cabinet, and Grand Street. She lives in Los Angeles.
The volatile world of New York's art scene is the setting for the newest novel by Rachel Kushner. A young woman, Reno, has come to the city to turn a love of motorcycles into a career in art, but she winds up involved in a radical political movement in Italy. More at NPR.org
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“I loved Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers.”
“Rachel Kushner’s fearless, blazing prose ignites the 70s New York art scene and Italian underground of The Flamethrowers.”
“Rachel Kushner’s second novel, The Flamethrowers, is scintillatingly alive, and also alive to artifice. It ripples with stories, anecdotes, set-piece monologues, crafty egotistical tall tales, and hapless adventures: Kushner is never not telling a story… it manifests itself as a pure explosion of now: it catches us in its mobile, flashing present, which is the living reality it conjures on the page at the moment we are reading… Kushner employs a[n]…eerie confidence throughout her novel, which constantly entwines the invented with the real, and she often uses the power of invention to give her fiction the authenticity of the reportorial, the solidity of the historical…Kushner watches the New York art world of the late seventies with sardonic precision and lancing humor, using Reno’s reportorial hospitality to fill her pages with lively portraits and outrageous cameos…[Kushner’s] novel is an achievement precisely because it resists either paranoid connectedness or knowing universalism. On the contrary, it succeeds because it is so full of vibrantly different stories and histories, all of them particular, all of them brilliantly alive.”
“The Flamethrowers unfolds on a bigger, brighter screen than nearly any recent American novel I can remember. It plays out as if on Imax, or simply higher-grade film stock…Ms. Kushner can really write. Her prose has a poise and wariness and moral graininess that puts you in mind of ….Robert Stone and Joan Didion…[Kushner has] a sensibility that’s on constant alert for crazy, sensual, often ravaged beauty…persuasive and moving…provocative.”
“Life, gazed at with exemplary intensity over hundreds of pages and thousands of sentences precision-etched with detail—that’s what The Flamethrowers feels like. That’s what it is. And it could scarcely be better. The Flamethrowers is a political novel, a feminist novel, a sexy novel, and a kind of thriller…Virtually every page contains a paragraph that merits—and rewards—rereading."
“Rachel Kushner’s new novel, The Flamethrowers, is a high-wire performance worthy of Philippe Petit. On lines stretched tight between satire and eulogy, she strolls above the self-absorbed terrain of the New York art scene in the 1970s, providing a vision alternately intimate and elevated…[Kushner is] a superb recent-historical novelist…20 brilliant pages [of The Flamethrowers] could make any writer’s career: a set piece of New York night life that’s a daze of comedy, poignancy and violence…What really dazzles…is her ability to steer this zigzag plot so expertly that she can let it spin out of control now and then…The Flamethrowers concludes with two astonishing scenes: one all black, one all white, as striking as any of the desert photographs Reno aspires to shoot, but infinitely richer and more evocative. Hang on: This is a trip you don’t want to miss.”
“[A] big, rich wonder of a novel… [Kushner’s] polychrome sentences…are shot through with all the longing and regret you find in those of Thomas Pynchon, whose influence is all over this novel… a glittering, grave, brutally unsentimental book that’s spectacularly written enough to touch greatness.”
“Exhilarating…it’s impossible not to be pulled in by the author’s sense of the period’s vitality…the novel’s brilliance is in its understanding of art’s relationship to risk, and in its portrait of Reno’s—and New York’s—age of innocence.”
“[A] brilliant lightning bolt of a novel…The Flamethrowers is an entire world, intimately and convincingly observed, filled with characters whose desires feel true. It is also an uncannily perceptive portrait of our culture—psychologically and philosophically astute, candid about class, art, sex and the position of women—with a deadly accuracy that recalls the young Joan Didion, and that, despite the precisely rendered historical backdrop, gives the story a timeless urgency.”
“A white-hot ember of a book…”
“Brilliant and exhilarating…Kushner fearlessly tackles art, death, and social unrest. In so doing, she has written the sort of relentless and immersive novel that forces the reader to look up and make sure the room hasn’t disappeared around her.”
“Vividly drawn…[A] keenly observed story.”
“Kushner can write like blazes.”
“Electric…addictive…smart and satisfying.”
“Exhilarating, psychologically complex, and perfectly intense, this is a thrilling contemporary novel likely to become a cultural touchstone.”
“Rachel Kushner so deftly interweaves the story of an Italian industrialist with that of a young woman insinuating herself into the 1970s New York art scene that The Flamethrowers slowly and seductively becomes a novel you just can’t quit.”
“The Flamethrowers not only harnesses the energies of violent Italian politics; it also converts the intensity of radical New York visual art into shining, whirling prose.”
“In her smash-hit debut, Telex from Cuba (2008), Kushner took on corporate imperialism and revolution, themes that also stoke this knowing and imaginative saga of a gutsy yet naïve artist from Nevada… Kushner, with searing insights, contrasts the obliteration of the line between life and art in hothouse New York with life-or-death street battles in Rome. Adroitly balancing astringent social critique with deep soundings of the complex psyches of her intriguing characters, Kushner has forged an incandescently detailed, cosmopolitan, and propulsively dramatic tale of creativity and destruction.”
“This rich second novel from Kushner takes place in late-‘70s New York City and Italy…Kushner’s psychological explorations of her characters are incisive, the novel is peppered with subtle ‘70s details, and it bursts with you-are-there depictions of its time and places.”
“A novel of art and politics but also of bikes and speed…exhilarating.”
“The Flamethrowers is an ambitious and serious American novel. The sentences are sharp and gorgeously made. The scope is wide. The political and the personal are locked in a deep and fascinating embrace. Kushner writes about excitement and tension with gusto and grace; she describes Italy and New York with a dark and savvy irony.”
-Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn and The Testament of Mary
“I didn't know what it could possibly look like for something to be a super smart sexy novel; now I know. The Flamethrowers is its own category of Wow, and Kushner is the champion of something strange, wonderful and real.”
-Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances
“Kushner is rapidly emerging as a thrilling and prodigious novelist.”
-Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom
“Oscillating between the hedonistic New York artworld and Italy in the midst of the Years of Lead, The Flamethrowers is that rare thing, a novel that uses recent history not as a picturesque backdrop, but as a way of interrogating the present. Kushner’s urgent prose and psychological acuity make this one of the most compelling and enjoyable novels I’ve read this year.”
-Hari Kunzru, author of Gods Without Men
“The controlled intensity and perception in Rachel Kushner's novels mark her as one of the most brilliant writers of the oncoming century. She's going to be one we turn to for our serious pleasures and for the insight and wisdom we'll be needing in hard times to come. Rachel Kushner is a novelist of the very first order. The Flamethrowers follows Telex from Cuba as a masterful work.”
“The Flamethrowers lives up to its incendiary title—it is a brilliant, startling truly revolutionary book about the New York art world of the seventies, Italian class warfare, and youth's blind acceleration into the unknown. Kushner is a genius prose stylist, and her Reno is one of the most fully realized protagonists I've ever encountered, moving fluidly from the fringe of the fringe movement to the center of the action. I want to recommend this stunning book to everyone I know.”
-Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!
"Rachel Kushner writes dazzling, sexy, glorious prose. She is as brilliant on men and motorcycles as she is on art and film. The Flamethrowers is an ambitious and powerful novel."
-Dana Spiotta, author of Eat the Document and Stone Arabia
“In this extremely bold, swashbuckling novel, romantic and disillusioned at once, intellectually daring and even subversive, Rachel Kushner has created the most beguiling American ingénue abroad, well, maybe ever: Daisy Miller as a sharply observant yet vulnerable Reno-raised motorcycle racer and aspiring artist, set loose in gritty 70s New York and the Italy of the Red Brigades.”
-Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name
“The Flamethrowers is about machines (motorcycles and guns, but also cameras) and the way they revolutionized the last century (its politics and violence, but also its art)…[Kushner’s] style is a rare blend of romanticism and historicism—with a sense of precision.”