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FAC UT ARDEAT...Make it burn.,
This review is from: The Flamethrowers: A Novel (Hardcover)
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My approach to this novel with the provocative title was one marked by my expectation of a wild, comic encounter with the bohemian counterculture of the 1970's - a high-speed collision of innocence and enthusiasm, creativity and art, politics and heightened awareness. And it was immediately clear that all my expectations would not only be met but surpassed as well.
The primary narrative voice of the story belongs to a young woman artist we come to know as Reno, nicknamed for the city of her birth in the western state of Nevada. As a graduate with an art degree from University of Nevada Reno, Reno decides that her path of art leads east to New York City where the art scene is really happening and where she intends to transpose her love for fast motorcycles and her passion for high speed into her own unique form of artistic expression.
In this milieu the sensitive, inexperienced Reno embarks on her search for initiation into the art world by setting up camp in Soho with an eclectic colony of artists, raconteurs, hellions, revolutionaries, some fabulously rich, and also some very poor. She finds artistic encouragement and social prodding, friendship and love. A chance encounter with an artist named Sandro Valera, who happens to be of the Valera tire and motorcycle empire of Italy, results in a love affair that will take her on fateful trip to an angry, revolutionary Italy in 1977.
Author Rachel Kushner is a compelling storyteller and with THE FLAMETHROWERS demonstrates her remarkable ability to place the personal coming-of-age story of her protagonist Reno in the context of the explosive political and social upheaval of the 70's and make it intellectual, tragicomic and universal. Her exuberant prose has suspense, wit and emotion and it traps the reader with its political undertones. Her narrative power will simply not release you once it grasps hold of you.
Readers will arrive at their final reaction to THE FLAMETHROWERS from many different directions - some from the historical perspective, some from the cultural, others from the social, the psychological or the moral. Others still may view it as more of a Bildungsroman in which Reno finds her psychological and moral growth as she moves from question to question, looking for answers, searching for experience. Everyone would be correct for THE FLAMETHROWERS is all of that...and so much more.
Reno, Sandro, Ronnie and the entire roster of unforgettable characters of THE FLAMETHROWERS are afire with their passions and fueled by dreams...
"A movie, a lover. Friends. Complicities. A certain amount of success. These were decent crutches, provided they could be changed up often enough. And art, of course. Making art was really about the problem of the soul, of losing it. It was a technique for inhabiting the world. For not dissolving into it."
"The flamethrower was never, ever defensive. He was pure offense, overrunning enemy lines." FAC UT ARDEAT. Make it burn. And burn THE FLAMETHROWERS does.