Apr 2, 2014

The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner

I am not, apparently, a big fan of incomplete sentences. They're distracting, taking me out of the flow of the writing and making me reread what I just finished in case the lack of grammar was all in my head. That's my only real complaint about "The Flamethrowers," however, my bookstore's next book club selection.

The novel is broken up into two alternating stories: first we have a girl known only by the nickname Reno, a young woman who moves to New York in the 1970s to try to become a serious artist. Then we have Valera, the Italian father of Reno's older boyfriend, who lived through two world wars and came out at the top of the industrial and socio-economic pyramid. It's a brilliant juxtaposition and interaction, the heady art scene of New York and the socialist uprisings of Italian youth. Which is more real? Which is more important? People die, and dissimulate, and deceive, for all kinds of reasons. Kushner's writing is extremely deliberate, creating a dense reading experience that is sometimes a bit difficult to push through, but well worth it. I wouldn't call this book a favorite of mine, but I do appreciate its artistry and the way it makes me think about topics I'd otherwise skim over, and it will undoubtedly make for a fascinating discussion.

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