The Flamethrowers: Book summary and reviews of The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

The Flamethrowers

By Rachel Kushner

The Flamethrowers

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Book Summary

The year is 1977 and Reno - so-called because of the place of her birth - has come to New York intent on turning her fascination with motorcycles and speed into art. Her arrival coincides with an explosion of activity in the art world—artists have colonized a deserted and industrial Soho, are squatting in the East Village, and blurring the line between life and art. Reno falls in with group of dreamers and raconteurs who submit her to a sentimental education of sorts. She begins an affair with an artist named Sandro Valera, the semi-estranged scion of an Italian tire and motorcycle empire. When they visit Sandro's family home in Italy, Reno falls in with members of the radical movement that overtook Italy in 1977. Betrayal sends her reeling into a clandestine undertow.

The Flamethrowers is a fearless novel, an intensely engaging exploration of the mystique of the feminine, the fake, the terrorist. In the center of it all is Kushner's brilliantly realized protagonist, a young woman on the verge.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. 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." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Kushner writes well and plunges us deeply into the disparate worlds of the New York City art scene, European political radicalism and the exhilarating rush of motorcycles." - Kirkus

"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." - Robert Stone

"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!

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Rachel Kushner's 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. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Believer, Artforum, Bookforum, Fence, Bomb, Cabinet, and Grand Street. She lives in Los Angeles.

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