The Flamethrowers.

Author:Kushner, Rachel
Position:Book review

By Rachel Kushner

Rachel Kushner's acclaimed, National Book Award--nominated debut was Telex from Cuba (**** SELECTION Sept/Oct 2008), an expose of sugar plantations. In The Flamethrowers, she looks at the turbulent 1970s through the eyes of a young artist.


THE STORY: Reno, a young motorcycle enthusiast from Nevada, arrives in mid-1970s New York City seeking to establish herself as an artist. Her fast-paced world (in more ways than one: she becomes the fastest woman in the world in 1976 on the Bonneville Salt Flats) centers on art, the intellect, politics, and the nature of reality. Through her group of aspiring artists, Reno meets a lover, Sandro Valera, 14 years her senior and the estranged scion of an Italian motorcycle empire. The two travel to Sandro's home, where Reno becomes dangerously involved with the labor movement, whose simmering displeasure at the actions of her boyfriend's family reaches the boiling point. When surrounded by people who play out their lives believing in "the uselessness of the truth," what does that leave? Or, as Reno muses after an unforgiveable betrayal, "I was alone and rootless."

Scribner. 400 pages. $26.99. ISBN: 9781439142004

Washington Post *****

"Rachel Kushner's new novel, The Flamethrowers, is a high-wire performance worthy of Philippe Petit. ... What really dazzles, though, is her ability to steer this zigzag plot so expertly that she can let it spin out of control now and then." RON CHARLES

Cleveland Plain Dealer *****

"Kushner, it should be apparent, can write like the blazes--my copy of this novel is scarred with circled and underlined passages. ... She is good at conjuring arresting imagery of her own." KAREN R. LONG

Miami Herald ****

"Kushner deftly examines the abyss that separates workers from business owners. ... [The Flamethrowers] is a deeply layered depiction of a journey from appearance to reality." STEVE...

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