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The Flamethrowers Hardcover – 6 Jun 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker (6 Jun 2013)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 1846557917
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846557910
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.5 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 234,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Scintillatingly alive... It ripples with stories, anecdotes, set-piece monologues, crafty egotistical tall tales, and hapless adventures" (James Wood New Yorker)

"Kushner is rapidly emerging as a thrilling and prodigious novelist" (Jonathan Franzen)

"One of the most thrilling and high-octane literary experiences I have had in ages" (Colum McCann Sunday Independent)

"It's so good, it's a little frightening… it makes any fretting over the state of the novel look plain silly" (Guardian)

"An adrenalin-fuelled coming-of-age novel" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Unfolds on a bigger, brighter screen than nearly any recent American novel I can remember" (New York Times)

"An ambitious and serious American novel. The sentences are sharp and gorgeously made. The scope is wide. The political and the personal are locked in a deep and fascinating embrace" (Colm Tóibín)

"Dazzling... The Flamethrowers is a virtuoso performance; a ride of ache and pleasure, handled with pinpoint command" (The Times)

"This glittering novel is both carefully structured and exhilarating" (Daily Telegraph)

"Rachel Kushner’s fearless, blazing prose ignites the 70s New York art scene and Italian underground" (Vanity Fair)

"A bright burning flame of a novel" (Spectator)

"The Flamethrowers is a strange, fascinating beast of a novel, brimming with ideas, and sustained by the muscular propulsion of Kushner’s prose… Kushner emerges as a wildly gifted artist filling a sketchbook with thrilling, eye-catching scenes" (Robert Collins Sunday Times)

"There is an exhilarating freedom to Kushner’s writing… Taut, vividly intelligent prose" (David Wolf Prospect)

"Sparky and inventive...a riot of a novel" (Daily Mail)

"Ms Kushner’s kaleidoscopic prose carries the novel’s shifts in location and person, and the fast-paced rhythm harnesses the thrill of adventure" (Economist)

"Swells with a daunting bravado" (Irish Times)

"Oscillating between the hedonistic New York art world 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)

"The controlled intensity and perception in Rachel Kushner's novels mark her as one of the most brilliant writers of the new 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)

"A high-wire performance worthy of Philippe Petit... Hang on: this is a trip you don’t want to miss" (Ron Charles Washington Post)

"Wow! What a book! I'm eager for everyone I know to read it. It's an example of the very best in contemporary fiction…a contemporary masterpiece, and it wants you all to read it" (Josh Ferris)

"A dazzlingly exciting novel... This is a deeply intelligent and engaging novel that uses all the virtues of old-fashioned storytelling to celebrate the triumphs and absurdities of new-fangled art" (Jake Kerridge Sunday Express)

"The Flamethrowers has gained praise from Jonathan Franzen and drawn comparisons with Patti Smith's Just Kids as it epically leaps between the New York art scene of the late 1970s and Italy in the midst of revolution... An essential summer read" (Grazia)

"Exhilirating, psychologically complex, and perfectly intense, this is a thrilling contemporary novel likely to become a cultural touchstone" (Flavorwire)

"A brilliant lightning bolt of a novel" (Maud Newton, NPR)

"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)

"Riveting" (Time)

"Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers is remarkable for its expansiveness and for its exhilarating succession of ideas" (Mark West The List)

"National Book Award finalist Rachel Kushner brings NYC's art scene to life so well in The Flamethrowers you could get high off the paint" (Entertainment Weekly)

"Fast-paced, sexy and smart" (Cosmopolitan)

" and satisfying" (Oprah Magazine)

"Captivating and compelling" (The Bookbag)

"This is a work of ferocious energy and imaginative verve, straining at the seams with ideas, riffs, jokes, set-pieces, belly-laughs, horror and heartbreak" (Booktrust)

"Kushner writes with authority, passion and humour, her characters richly drawn and her story packed with delicious anecdotes and side lines from a wide array of memorable characters" (Tracy Eynon We Love This Book)

"Sexy and brilliant" (Sunday Times Style)

"Incandescent" (Image)

"Kushner's second novel comes loaded with recommendations and it's easy to see why…highly unusual and written with great seriousness and potency" (Guardian)

"It manages to relate the art scene in 1970s New York to the Red Brigades in Italy, with lots of motorbikes thrown in" (Nick Barley Herald)

"Kushner’s writing is a kind of marvel" (Richard Fitzpatrick Irish Examiner)

Book Description

An extraordinarily ambitious big American novel about a young artist and the worlds she encounters in New York and Rome in the mid-1970s - by turns underground, elite, dangerous

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER on 5 Jun 2013
Format: Hardcover
Set mainly in New York's art district in the late 1970s, Rachel Kushner's "The Flamethrowers" tells the story of a young girl, known only to the reader as Reno, after the city she comes from. She's a girl who loves motorbikes and photography, but struggles to find her place in the New York art scene. When she falls for the estranged son, Sandro, of the Italian motorbike manufacturer Valera, himself an artist in New York, Reno finds herself in situations she cannot control.

"The Flamethrowers" is a difficult book to describe. It feels unbalanced at times, with one of the main events not occurring until three quarters of the way through the book. It's also not easy to even say what it's about. It covers business, from the start of the Valera family interest in motorbikes told in another strand of the book which frustratingly ends mid way through the book, through the oppression of Brazilian rubber tappers in a small but perfectly written chapter, ending with the family business controlled by Sandro's brother in Italy facing the political labour issues of the period. Meanwhile Sandro enjoys the wealth which allows him to create art. Eventually these two collide and Reno is caught up in the middle, but she is a person who seems to go with the flow rather than making choices of her own. Yet somehow this imbalance in the book makes it all the more compelling. Add to that Kushner's often unexpected turn of phrase and I was gripped by it from start to finish.

In fact, it may well be the slightly unbalanced feel of the book that helps the reader to associate with Reno, a girl who is very much on the edge and not in control of her life. In some ways she's a cipher for events that happen around her but this doesn't detract from the book in any way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Sullivan on 2 Oct 2014
Format: Paperback
The novel opens with a flashback to World War I. T.P. Valera is ripping a headlight off the crashed motorcycle of his dead friend. Valera kills a German soldier with the afore-mentioned headlight as he came rushing through a forest of trees. The novel will return periodically to T.P. Valera to follow his story from rags to riches making his fortune in rubber in the jungles of the Amazon and subsequently making motorcycles in Italy.
T.P. Valera is the father of Sandro Valera, a famous and successful artist in the 1970s who has fled his wealthy and distinguished life in Italy. Sandro is the lover of the novel’s main protagonist and narrator, Reno (so called because that is where she hails from) a young woman in her early twenties who after finishing her art degree has moved to New York. She is obsessed with speed, engines (specifically motorbikes) and land-speed records. Reno is a conceptual artist and in New York she is sucked, willingly, into the bohemian world of artists, revolutionaries and menace.
The novel is set (apart from the flashbacks) post-Watergate, post Nixon, post-Vietnam. Watergate and Nixon’s involvement not only polarized America but also politicized it. The Baby Boomers had decided that the older generation could no longer be trusted to run their country and what America needed was a grassroots revolution, an iron fist in a velvet glove. Reno though not directly involved with the radical revolutionaries in New York falls within their orbit as she becomes part of the Manhattan Soho scene.
Reno is fascinated with capturing “the experience of speed” which she readily displays when she photographs the tracks left by her crashed motorcycle after a speed trial on the salt flats of Bonneville.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By rashbre on 6 July 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An interesting mix of several main story lines, as our narrator gets involved with art movements, motor cycles, tyre factories, strikes, street fighting and skiing. If that sounds improbable, the novel isn't. It's spread across deserts, New York, Italy with various characters and sometimes co-incidences to pull it together.

I'd expected a road trip, but its more a 'state of existence' trip, as the lead "Reno" reacts and interacts with some richly described circumstances.

Reno is something of a blank canvas against which the narratives and characters paint. Other characters frequently get the best lines.

After the start, where she's doing something deliberate, we live often in Reno's head. Another character, Giddle, almost explains this, when she describes how she'd taken a role in a cafe in order to observe and learn.

There's a discussion of the China Girl leader on movie films (used for colour calibration) and in the way that China Girls flash past as part of the startup of a movie reel, I guess we get a similar effect with Reno in Chapter One, before we cut to the various scenes of the main movie/narratives.

I enjoyed the structure, wasn't phased by the jump cuts and enjoyed the twists in the writing.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Ross on 31 Aug 2013
Format: Hardcover
In brief, the premise of The Flamethrowers is that Reno, a young woman from the American Midwest, moves to New York in the 1970s with hopes of becoming an artist and, maybe, finding love. This leads to her falling in with the in-crowd and traversing the art scene amid the feelings of alienation and distance she has from the people she meets.

None of the above, however, was what led me to buy this novel. I'd read in various reviews online and in the broadsheets that this was a novel about a female biker and biker gangs, a macho book from a female perspective that challenged gender roles and which also included some adventures among artists. I was intrigued by this premise but unfortunately didn't find that the book at all conformed to it. There is some description on biker gangs in the early going and Reno rides her bike a few times at the start and a bit at the end but that's pretty much it as far as this strand is concerned. The vast majority of the novel involves Reno attending dinner parties and various other soirees with rich and extremely pretentious members of the art scene, people who talk at one another in non-sequiturs and rambling anecdotes. This doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing in terms of the story but, as I'll try to outline below, the author in my opinion has made a number of stylistic choices which seriously encumber the enjoyability of the novel.

The first of these is the character of Reno and the manner in which she narrates the story. In her feeling of distance from the various other characters, she constantly drifts out and observes things from afar. This leads to her merely reporting what is going on in long descriptive passages without getting involved, expressing her feelings on events or making much in the way of commentary.
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