New York magazine’s number one book of the year and named a Best Book of 2013 by The Wall Street Journal; Vogue; O, The Oprah Magazine; Los Angeles Times; The San Francisco Chronicle; The New Yorker; Time; Flavorwire; Salon; Slate; The Daily Beast; Bookish; The Jewish Daily Forward; The Austin American-Statesman; Complex; and The Millions, Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers was a finalist for the National Book Award and a New York Times bestseller. Includes a new essay by the author, with a folio of images.
Reno, so-called because of the place of her birth, comes to New York intent on turning her fascination with motorcycles and speed into art. Her arrival coincides with an explosion of activity—artists colonize a deserted and industrial SoHo, stage actions in the East Village, blur the line between life and art. Reno is submitted to a sentimental education of sorts—by dreamers, poseurs, and raconteurs in New York and by radicals in Italy, where she goes with her lover to meet his estranged and formidable family. Ardent, vulnerable, and bold, Reno is a fiercely memorable observer, superbly realized by Rachel Kushner.
“Superb…Scintillatingly alive…A pure explosion of now.”—The New Yorker
Reading Group Guide
The young and impressionable unnamed narrator of The Flamethrowers, occasionally referred to by other characters as “Reno,” grew up in that Nevada town, riding motorcycles with her rough and tumble cousins, and studied fine art at the University of Nevada. When she moves to New York in 1975 with little more than a camera, she finds a fast-paced downtown art world of makers, fakers, manipulators, lovers, and friends. She begins dating a golden boy of that world, Sandro Valera, an artist and wealthy heir to an Italian motorcycle fortune. For an art project, ‘Reno’ rides a Moto Valera in the land speed trials on the Bonneville Salt Flats. She is invited to travel with the Valera race team in Italy, but when she goes to Sandro’s ancestral estate to meet his family, she discovers a rift she can’t bridge, one that sends her spiraling through betrayal, and into a radical scene in Rome.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Reno wants to create Land Art in the manner of iconic artists like Ro see more