The Flamethrowers

The Flamethrowers

by Rachel Kushner
4.1 25

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The Flamethrowers: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Atthebeach More than 1 year ago
I am aware that critics are calling The Flamethrowers 'the great American novel' and other such things. I agree that the author writes with striking verbiage, wonderful syntax, and amazing description of scenes and persons and places. She, somewhat like Mailer whose style I love, makes you want to re-read paragraphs and pages to appreciate the writing along the way.  Her characters are complex, not too admirable, but interesting---often hard to like but always fascinating to watch. Many are full of themselves and the dialogue in certain occasions goes on too long like a long dinner party with too many egos we sometimes attend. The main character, Reno, is young and unfinished, still learning who she is as she encounters these many unique and much bigger characters. She is used and carried and hangs on to go with the flow, and along the way experiences places and things---and people---that will form her life and change her forever. Unfortunately, we don't know how Reno turns out; we can only imagine. I kept wanting her to get stronger and more her own person. I kept wanting more to happen in the plot, the story. While the descriptions were vivid and the conversations philosophical and thought-provoking, I wanted the story to go farther. I love how the book was written, but not so much where it went. 
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ajWA More than 1 year ago
She's been compared to Joan Didion and indeed, her "lapidary" prose does thrill as it cuts to the core of complicated political and psychological goings-on, in the turbulent, topsy-turvy times of 1970's U.S. and Italy. If this sounds like a lot to chew on, therein lies both the beauty and the flaws of this novel - an ambitious study of a young woman's coming of age, artistically and socially, that sometimes is brilliant but at others seems patched together. A bit more editing, perhaps, and this story would have flowed more smoothly. Too many of the male characters seemed cut from the same cloth.
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Margie_Reads More than 1 year ago
Traipsing through the 70's with these characters amused me. I liked the memory triggers.
TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
It is the late ‘70s. Reno is a young drifter with pretensions to art. She lands in New York and hangs at the edges of a group whose composition changes with the inclinations of Sandro and Ronnie. Sandro, Ronnie, and Gianni, the men Reno spends her time with and learns from, are central but elusive figures in this drama. Sandro’s father, the man who teaches Sandro about how life really works, is also a central but elusive figure. Reno is, literally and figuratively, a printer’s reference, a human Caucasian face against which film color corrections could be matched to a referent. Subliminally viewed, if at all, her face might sometimes leave an afterimage. Only filmmakers and projectionists knew of her existence. “Their ordinariness was part of their appeal: real but unreachable women who left no sense of who they were. No clue but a Kodak color bar, which was no clue at all.” When we first see her, Reno is riding a fast motorcycle in the desert and later photographs her tracks. Sandro elevates her work by calling this a type of ‘land art.’ She wipes out, smashing the motorcycle, but her efforts lead to a larger success in setting a land speed record—more sport than art. She travels to Italy to promote the bike she rode in the Southwest desert. I have seen references to this as a “feminist” novel. It would not have occurred to me to say that, though there is some movement of a young, untried woman towards a greater understanding of her place in the world who then begins to take charge of her freedom. She also has a glimpse, towards the end of the story, of the men in her life not merely as simple stock images or disposable short outtakes of a larger film. “Cropping can make outcomes so ambiguous…” These are men with all the feelings and dreams, histories and futures of men and she is growing up. Reno as a character is particularly attractive in that she is able, in the course of this novel, to go off without a lover, rent an apartment on her own, and ride a motorcycle about New York City. This may be the dream of any young person anywhere: it is not feminism, but life. But what held me were the ideas about art, about looking, about believing, about making the effort. Reno’s friend Giddle believed herself to be a performance artist of sorts, but somewhere along the way she lost the thread, the point. Sandro made empty boxes. Ronnie photographed beat-up women. Reno made short films of street life. The art created by these folk, and the folk themselves when we first meet them, are stock images, referents for life. But by the end we have had growth and all are in the process of becoming. Sandro’s father has a critical role in this novel. The backdrop of his powerful and moneyed world of making tires for racing vehicles represents the old guard against which the artists and Italian Red Brigade demonstrators were rebelling. Yet he was a rebel in his time. The father taught Sandro important truths about the world: that there is evil and greed; that power matters; that guns don’t always fire as advertised; that Flamethrowers can be clumsy targets rather than objects of envy. Flamethrowers’ fire often ran back up the hose and consumed the perpetrator. Kushner held me spellbound with her descriptions of New York’s art scene in the ‘70s. Using Patti Smith’s National Book Award-winning Just Kids as a referent, we get a similar feeling of a young, edgy, trial-by-error art scene.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LaFilleDuVall More than 1 year ago
The writing is flawless in this novel. It covers a broad spectrum of cultures including Reno, New York City, South America and Italy during the 70's and 80's with flashbacks to post WWII. A young woman, who is a skier, motorcyclist and artist from Reno, has a romance with an older, sophisticated artist who is one of the sons of an Italian tycoon who manufactured tires, cars and motorcycles. The Italian magnate developed his fortune by exploiting native labor in South America then in later years, the company is under siege by exploited Italian workers, which leads to strikes, protests and kidnapping. The insights about the very rich, such as dressing for dinner while eating stale bread because they are too stingy to have bread baked daily by the cooks, is entertaining. The young artist lets herself be swept passively into the world of the elite and into the streets with protesters while her older lover, not surprisingly, carries on multiple affairs and ignores the rights of the workers on whose backs his fortune was built. Most descriptions of this book emphasize the art world part of the narrative; however, the book cover itself hits the target at the heart of the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story and characters did not hold my attention I couldn't sink my teeth into the story Too haphazard! At the end I was left with small snippets of nothing
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superbellman More than 1 year ago
Proof of what I though of Flamethrowers is that my next book purchase was Telex from Havana the other book by RK which I also enjoyed. Flamethrowers has a historical and political basis which ties the action and romantic parts of the story together. The historical parts I researched were found to be accurate. The character depth was good and you had to believe she had first hand experience of the situations she described. One reviewer criticized the large number of characters but I didn’t think this was a problem, in this book but there are a ton of characters in Telex . A large number of characters can be conquered with a little organized note taking which I always do anyway. Really liked the book and would recommend it.
kalevala More than 1 year ago
Traces life of young woman, her romance with an older Italian Minimalist artist and the story of his Italian Motorcycle Empire family in Northern Europe. Sounds kind of strange by the motorcycle hub works. Includes the New York City art scene, motorcycle racing, radical groups in NYC and in Italy. I found this a different type of book. Sometimes a bit confusing and slow. but i can see why it was nominated for a book award. A young woman's Odyssey from the west coast to NYC to Northern Italy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Hey Aki."((MY CAT TAKES UP MORE OF MY TWIN SIZED BED THEN ME!!!
Tcasscros More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It covers the NYC revolutionary sub-culture in a thoughtful and often very humorous way. Sharp writing and story telling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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