The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
A Novel

68%

8 Critic Reviews

The clunking mechanics of realism...seem to clunk all the louder. A series of anachronisms...highlight the inexpertly glued links between the invented and the real.
-Financial Times

Synopsis

Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, a finalist for the National Book Award, was just named a Top Ten Book of 2013 by the New York Times Book Review and one of Time magazine’s top ten fiction books. Kushner’s first novel, Telex from Cuba, was also a finalist for a National Book Award and was reviewed on the cover of The New York Times Book Review. The Flamethrowers, 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.
 

About Rachel Kushner

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Rachel Kushner was an editor at Grand Street and Bomb and now coedits Soft Targets. A frequent contributor to Artforum, she has a BA from the University of California at Berkeley and an MFA from Columbia University. She lives in Los Angeles. Lloyd James has been narrating since 1996, has recorded over six hundred books in almost every genre, has earned six AudioFile Earphones Awards, and is a two-time nominee for the prestigious Audie Award. His bestselling and most critically acclaimed performances include Elvis in the Morning by William F. Buckley, Jr., Ben Hur by Lew Wallace, Searching for Bobby Fischer by Fred Waitskin, and Mystic Warrior by Tracy and Laura Hickman. Lloyd's background as a performer includes extensive work in classical theater and folk music. He lives in Maryland with his wife and children.
 
Published January 1, 2014 by Vintage. 400 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History, Education & Reference. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Flamethrowers
All: 8 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 3

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Cristina GarcÍa on Apr 26 2013

Kushner confidently manages huge swaths of politics and history, intersecting them with the personal lives of her characters, often through cultural or commercial motifs.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Apr 16 2013

As it wraps up, “The Flamethrowers” drifts; the final chapters are provocative but elusive. Not all the pieces are ultimately made to fit, which is intentional but also frustrating.

Read Full Review of The Flamethrowers: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Talitha Stevenson on Jun 22 2013

Despite Kushner's immense talents, what she has not achieved in this book is the incarnation of her ideas in character and world that make novels so engrossing to read – and so very hard to write.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Hermione Hoby on Jun 05 2013

There's a quality of iridescence to the writing...which isn't just about the lustre of the prose, but the way in which passages seem many-coloured.

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NPR

Excellent
Reviewed by Maud Newton on Apr 04 2013

The Flamethrowers is an entire world, intimately and convincingly observed, filled with characters whose desires feel true.

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Financial Times

Below average
Reviewed by Ludovic Hunter-Tilney on Jun 07 2013

The clunking mechanics of realism...seem to clunk all the louder. A series of anachronisms...highlight the inexpertly glued links between the invented and the real.

Read Full Review of The Flamethrowers: A Novel | See more reviews from Financial Times

Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Deborah Dundas on Apr 07 2013

Five years after that first 2008 book, the U.S. writer has released the much anticipated The Flamethrowers, a work likely to get a similar reaction as Telex From Cuba.

Read Full Review of The Flamethrowers: A Novel | See more reviews from Toronto Star

National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Apr 19 2013

The Flamethrowers — the title is an allusion to a particularly horrifying aggressive weapon used in the First World War — is a book of great scope and vitality. Its writing is loose-limbed, fluid and full of concrete detail.

Read Full Review of The Flamethrowers: A Novel | See more reviews from National Post arts

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57%

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Hannah Carroll 31 Oct 2013

Rated the book as 5 out of 5

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