The Flamethrowers (MP3 CD)
In Rachel Kushner's second novel, The Flamethrowers, a young filmmaker moves from Reno to New York in 1977. There, she meets and moves in with Sandro Valera, a Minimalist artist and the black sheep son of a wealthy Italian motorcycle and tire manufacturer. "Reno" (as she's nicknamed) narrates her period of self-discovery in a vividly rendered NYC during perhaps its worst period of decrepitude, but also a very free era for artistic expression. Kushner's philiosophical, political, and psychological insights push this novel forward. Though the plot itself tends to meander a bit, Kushner nails everything else: characters, setting, overarching themes, and wonderful language.— Michael
The year is 1975 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 staging actions in the East Village, and are blurring the line between life and art. Reno meets a group of dreamers and raconteurs who submit her to a sentimental education of sorts. Ardent, vulnerable, and bold, 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 the seventies. Betrayal sends her reeling into a clandestine undertow.
The Flamethrowers is an intensely engaging exploration of the mystique of the feminine, the fake, the terrorist. At its center is Kushner's brilliantly realized protagonist, a young woman on the verge. Thrilling and fearless, this is a major American novel from a writer of spectacular talent and imagination.