|Amazon Price||New from||Used from|
By Lauren Groff
Every so often, you’ll come across a book that burns so hot and bright it’ll sear a shadow on your vision. For a while afterwards, everything you look at will have the book’s imprint on it; your world will be colored in the book’s tones, and you will glimpse the book’s characters on the street and feel your heart knocking in your chest for a few blocks, as if you’d escaped a close call.
This is how I felt after I read Rachel Kushner’s brilliant The Flamethrowers. The night I finished it, I dreamt of racing motorcycles across sun-shot salt-flats and of floating in glimmering Italian swimming pools. In the morning, I tried to describe the book to a friend but I eventually faltered into silence.
This is a beautiful book, I finally said, a book full of truth, a book about art and motorcycle racing and radicalism, about innocence and speed and stepping up to a dangerous brink, a book very deeply about the late seventies in New York City and its powerful blend of grittiness and philosophical purity.
Oh, said my friend. So. What is it about?
I tried again. I said: It’s a love story, about a young artist under the sway of an older, established artist, scion of a motorcycle family, who betrays her, and she joins up with an underground group in Italy. It feels like a contemporary European novel, philosophical and intelligent, with an American heart and narrative drive, I said.
Oh, said my friend.
Just read the book, I said and my friend did, and loved it to speechlessness, as well. Wow, is all he could say when he returned the book to me.
I don’t blame him. The truth is, this is a strange and mysterious novel, a subtle novel. Much of its power comes from the precision of Kushner’s language and how carefully she allows the flashes of perception to drive the narrative forward. See Reno, the offbeat narrator, describing ski racing to her lover, Sandro, saying, “Ski racing was drawing in time.” Suddenly you can see what she means, a body’s crisp slaloming down the white slope, the way the skier draws a perfect serpent down the clock.
Or see Reno, racing her motorcycle: “Far ahead of me, the salt flats and mountains conspired into one puddled vortex. I began to feel the size of this place. Or perhaps I did not feel it, but the cycle, whose tires marked its size with each turn, did. I felt a tenderness for them, speeding along under me.” There is something deeply eerie happening under the words, something on the verge of tipping over and spilling out; and, at the same time, a gentleness and innocence at the core of all that noise and speed.
Rachel Kushner is an unbelievably exciting writer, a writer of urgent and beautiful sentences and novels that are vast in their ambition and achievement. I finished it months ago, but The Flamethrowers—startling, radiant—still haunts me.
All in all, though I started out liking this book, I ended being a bit annoyed by it.
The story was not enough to hold my interest however, and many of the supporting characters were flat or to bizarre to be real.
Through her beautiful writing, this book is as much a visual masterpiece as a lingual one.
The events and the cast of characters fall into place and finally coalesce. If you don,t mind doing puzzles in your mind it finally fits together. Be patient.Published 2 days ago by Dale Claman
It is a good book worth reading but it does not take off to a higher more passionate level of readingPublished 2 days ago by DIMOKRITOS AMALLOS
I finally finished this novel. So why the four star review? She has an ability with prose that is worthy of the recognition she has received. Is this a page turner? Read morePublished 7 days ago by LadyDunn
Shallow self centered characters who seemed self absorbed to no real meaningful end.Published 8 days ago by veronica t mallett
Rachel Kushner knows how to turn a phrase, but this book is ultimately all about turning uber cool
phrases. It was too emotionally detached for me.
Rachel Kushner has an uncanny ability to make the reader feel she is writing her own experience Novels written from so inside the characters are rare. Read morePublished 12 days ago by illy billy
I read about 40 novels a year and was ranks at the bottom, Not sure what the critics saw in this book except for unquenchable thirst for dysfunctional characters in absurd... Read morePublished 14 days ago by leonard coster