Synopses & Reviews
Rachel Kushner's first novel, Telex from Cuba,
was nominated for a National Book Award and reviewed on the cover of The New York Times Book Review
. Her second novel, even more ambitious and brilliant, is the riveting story of a young artist and the worlds she encounters in New York and Rome in the mid-1970s — by turns underground, elite, and dangerous.
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.
“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!
"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
About the Author
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.