Reviews for Flamethrowers

Booklist Reviews 2013 March #2
*Starred Review* In her smash-hit debut, Telex from Cuba (2008), Kushner took on corporate imperialism and revolution, themes that also stoke this knowing and imaginative saga of a gutsy yet naive artist from Nevada. Called Reno when she arrives in New York in 1977, she believes that her art has "to involve risk," but she's unprepared for just how treacherous her entanglements with other artists will be. Reno's trial-by-fire story alternates provocatively with the gripping tale of Valera, an Italian who serves in a motorcycle battalion in WWI, manufactures motorcycles, including the coveted Moto Valera, and makes a fortune in the rubber industry by oppressing Indian tappers in Brazil. These worlds collide when Reno moves in with Sandro Valera, a sculptor estranged from his wealthy family, and tries to make art by racing a Moto Valera on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Ultimately, Reno ends up in Italy, where militant workers protest against the Valeras. As Reno navigates a minefield of perfidy, Kushner, with searing insights, contrasts the obliteration of the line between life and art in hothouse New York with life-or-death street battles in Rome. Adroitly balancing astringent social critique with deep soundings of the complex psyches of her intriguing, often appalling characters, Kushner has forged an incandescently detailed, cosmopolitan, and propulsively dramatic tale of creativity and destruction. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 January #2
A novel of art and politics but also of bikes and speed--not Harleys and drugs, but fine (and fast) Italian motorbikes. At 21, Reno (who goes by the name of the city she comes from) has graduated with a degree in art from the University of Nevada-Reno, and she does what any aspiring artist would like to--heads to New York City. She gets her kicks by riding a Moto Valera, a magnificent example of Italian engineering. In fact, for one brief shining moment in 1976, she sets a speed record of 308.506 mph on her bike at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. This impressive achievement occurs the year after she'd headed to New York, where she'd taken up with--amazing coincidence--Sandro Valera, scion of the Italian manufacturer of the motorbikes she favors and, like Reno, an aspiring artist in New York. Other coincidences abound--for example, that Reno had had sex with a young man, and they'd agreed not to exchange names, but shortly afterward she finds out he's a close friend of Sandro's, and he goes on to play a major role in her life. Kushner spends a considerable amount of time flashing us back to the Valera who founded the firm in the early 20th century, and she updates the fate of the company when Reno and Sandro visit his family home in Italy. There they experience both a huge demonstration and eventually the kidnapping of Sandro's father, a victim of the political turbulence of the 1970s. Kushner writes well and plunges us deeply into the disparate worlds of the New York City art scene, European political radicalism and the exhilarating rush of motorcycles. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 November #1

Kushner launched herself splendidly with her debut, Telex from Cuba, a New York Times best seller and finalist for the 2008 National Book Award. Her new work sounds even better. When Reno heads to New York in 1977, hoping to make art of her fascination with motorcycles, she falls in with some artists/squatters in not-yet-chic Soho. Then she falls for the scion of an Italian motorcycle empire and travels to Italy, where (calamitously) she's drawn into the radical movement there. Huge in-house excitement.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 April #2

Nicknamed for her birthplace, Reno loves speed--so much so that she hopes to set a world record racing her motorcycle on the Nevada salt flats. But she's also there to create a work of art with tire-track imagery, for Reno is indeed an artist, having moved to New York to pursue her interests. Along the grubbier edges of the city, she's met the movers, shakers, and hangers-on of the cutting-edge art scene of the late 1970s, including Sandro Valera, scion of an Italian family whose wealth rests on a vast tire and motorcycle empire. Scornful of his family, the older Sandro is a successful artist and quite a catch for Reno, who despite her tough-as-leather sensibility has something to learn about the cold, manipulative world. And learn she does when she heads to Italy with a reluctant Sandro, having fallen into what looks to be a great opportunity with the Valera racing team while in Nevada. Striking workers and fringe radicals are only a part of her education. VERDICT National Book Award finalist Kushner (Telex from Cuba) presents an incisive, enthralling portrait of a young woman finding her way. [See Prepub Alert, 10/15/12.]--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 February #3

This rich second novel from Kushner (Telex from Cuba) takes place in late-'70s New York City and Italy. Reno is a young filmmaker "shopping for experiences," who, as the novel opens, is attempting to set a land-speed record on her Moto Valera motorcycle in Nevada, only to crash instead. A flashback to New York finds her mixing with a group of artists, among whom she meets Sandro Valera, whose wealthy family manufactures the Moto Valera. Soon they are romantically entwined, and Reno accompanies Sandro on a visit home to Italy. She risks alienating the Valeras by going to their factory to film labor unrest, only to catch Sandro there in flagrante delicto with his cousin Talia. Distraught, she flees with Valera family servant Gianni to Rome, where she discovers Gianni is involved with a volatile protest movement. Snippets from the life of Sandro's father's run in intriguing contrast to Reno's story, presenting his WWI experiences, childhood in Alexandria, Egypt, and the founding of his company. Kushner's psychological explorations of her characters are incisive, the novel is peppered with subtle '70s details, and it bursts with you-are-there depictions of its time and places. Agent Susan Golomb, Susan Golomb Agency. (Apr.)

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