Rachel Kushner’s first novel, Telex from Cuba, was nominated for a National Book Award and
reviewed on the cover of the New York
Times Book Review. Her second novel, 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.
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, staging actions in the East Village
and 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 a radical Italian
movement. Betrayal sends her reeling into a clandestine undertow.
Flamethrowers is an intensely engaging exploration of the mystique of the
feminine, the fake, and 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.
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