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The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
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The Flamethrowers (2013)

by Rachel Kushner

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The 1970s New York art scene, revolutionary Italian social movements, land speed trials on the Bonneville Salt Flats, art as object or performance, design in art and engineering — Rachel Kushner’s novel is a swirling maelstrom turning us about, offering glimpses of fleeting moments and rapidly spinning us onward. Reno is a young, beautiful, student of artfilm set on making it in New York. She’s also a former downhill skier, motorcycle racer, and student of Italian. At first the art world of New York seems impenetrable, but then she slowly begins to work her way in through cracks and crevices, all the while both seeming and believing herself to still be on the outside, even when her relationship with Sandro Valera takes her to the heart of all her interests. A heart which is bound to be broken.

Kushner fills these pages with startlingly vivid characters whose interests and appetites come close to overwhelming the story, such as it is. From the well spun anecdotes of Ronnie, which may be his real art form, to the lived performance by Giddle as a diner waitress, to the huge loft apartments in the Bowery which even artists could still afford in the 70s, to the openings, the after parties, and the violence of near-nihilism that underwrote much of what passed as art. It’s a world unto itself, and as such both unbelievable and entirely convincing. All rendered in neon-poetic prose. A remarkable piece of writing.

Recommended. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Feb 5, 2019 |
I really struggled my way through Rachel Kushner's "The Flamethrowers." I really didn't care for the book or find it particularly interesting -- I'm surprised that this was a new addition to Boxall's 1,001 Books list as several of the books that were removed from the list at the same time this was added were much more deserving.

In this novel, "Reno" is a woman who is into motorcycles and art. She dabbles with all these things until she is about to get somewhere and then moves onto something else. She's in love with an older Italian guy who is also an artist who more or less calls the shots.

I think Kushner has some interesting ideas, but I didn't care for the execution of them. This was definitely a hard book to get through. ( )
  amerynth | Nov 22, 2018 |
I was looking forward to this book for awhile, the cover, the description, and the reviews all made it seem interesting. It isn't. The book focuses on Reno who likes motorcycles and art falls for one of the founder's sons of her favorite motorcycle company who introduces her to the pretentious New York art scene in the 1970s. There are a few chapters about Italy's history and the motorcycle company's history, these chapters end up being the most interesting part of the story. The art parties and people Reno talks to at them bored me and made it hard to read the book. It got more interesting when she went to Italy with her boyfriend and stayed at his mother's house. I thought Reno would see what she cared about in new York was bullshit and what was happening in Italy was real and should be documented, but no she goes back to New York and stay in the same boring ass art crowd. The rest of the book felt so pointless. Very disappointed.

( )
  wellreadcatlady | Oct 4, 2018 |
The interweaving of the history of the 1970's revolutions in Italy and the NY art world are wonderful. A huge cast of characters makes for fun reading, although the main characters, Sandro and Reno, and their relationship is a bit flat. ( )
  ghefferon | Aug 3, 2018 |
Maybe I am not in the mood but i could not finish it. Found it incredibly boring ( )
  annarellix | Jan 31, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rachel Kushnerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Biekmann, LidwienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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FAC UT ARDEAT
Dedication
This book is for Cynthia Mitchell.

And for Anna, wherever she is (and probably isn't).
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He killed him with a motorbike headlamp (what he had in his hand).
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Menschen, die schwerer zu lieben sind, stellen eine Herausforderung dar, und die Herausforderung macht es einfacher, sie zu lieben. Man fühlt sich dazu getrieben. Wer die Liebe einfach haben will, der will eigentlich gar keine Liebe.
"O Gott, das tut mir so leid. Liebe ist furchtbar. Sie ruiniert alles Normale, alles außer sich selbst. Sie macht dich verrückt, und das alles für nichts und wieder nichts, weil sie so enttäuschend ist. Aber viel Glück damit."
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Book description
The year is 1977 and Reno has come to New York intent on turning her fascination with motorcycles and speed into art. Her arrival coincides with an explosion or activity in the art world and Reno falls in with a group of dreamers and raconteurs who submit her to a sentimental education of sorts. She begins an affair with an artist named Sandro Valera, the semi-estranged heir of an Italian motorcycle empire. When they visit Sandro's family home in Italy, Reno becomes involved with members of the radical movement that overtook Italy in 1977. Betrayal sends her reeling into a clandestine undertow.
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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. - from cover p. [2]… (more)

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