Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Flamethrowers Paperback by Rachel Kushner (Scribners)

I picked up The Flamethrowers after seeing it named one of the NY Times 10 Best Books of 2013. How can you not pick it up after that sort of recognition. Ironically, I have Telex From Cuba on my "to read" pile in my apartment as well but haven't gotten around to it. I enjoyed The Flamethrowers--her writing is beautiful. It is jarring in places. Sensual in others. But the book itself was slow going and I can't say I enjoyed the storyline itself. The central figure in the story is Reno--a young woman named after the city she was born in. She migrates to New York and falls in with a artsy crowd who sleep around, have different perspectives on life, and who generally live in the fast lane. This is great for Reno at first because as a motorcycle speedy rider she loves speed and danger. The story centers around Reno's dalliance and relationship with the Valera family. We go back in time to see how they manufactured motorcycles, served in the army, and made tons of money in rubber and tires while beating back insurgencies from Indian workers. Remo eventually befriends Sandro Valera who is much older and eventually breaks her heart leading Reno to hit the road again in NY to take up with an insurgent crowd. I didn't love this book. I found it very hard to follow and despite the beautiful language and writing, the story didn't do anything for me at all. I can't recommend it highly although I am sure tons of people will keep reading it.

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