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Cradled in a fine evocation of the world of the New York art scene circa 1976 and the tumult of labor protests in Italy are a torrent of shorter narratives, almost like a Thousand and One Nights. Most though not all of the stories she tells are enjoyable and contribute to the world she's portraying. I'm not certain it all hangs together, but I suspect I'll be chewing this one over for a while.
The narrator has a pleasant voice that is just right for the protagonist's unsure 23-year-old self. When she says "I" you really believe she's the one telling you this story. However, her intonation is sometimes way off, as if she's concentrating on keeping a smooth delivery at the expense of understanding what she's saying.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
What did you love best about The Flamethrowers?
When I decided to listen to The Flamethrowers I was guardedly hopeful that the world Rachel Kushner was brazened enough to tackle, the world of gritty, downtown New York in the 1970’s, would live up to my expectations. Expectations set high since I am long time resident of lower Manhattan with an appreciation of art and counter intuitive thinking, both central elements of that place and time. She did not disappoint. Ms. Kushner’s knowledge of art, the people and places that made up the scene and the meticulous research of events swirling in the 70’s is spot on. This allowed her to recreate with accuracy the mood of deserted cobblestoned streets and dilapidated lofts, populated by colorfully independent, smart and destructive urban nomads.
Ms. Kushner is not only an imaginative story teller weaving truths with flights of fantasies but she has the ability to write in loving prose beautifully rendering even the grimy haunts of counterculture New York as it teeters on the edge of anarchy and bankruptcy.
The story shifts gears as smoothly as a high performance motorcycle as it speeds across the salt flats from New York to Italy and the South Pacific. To enhance the mood of the 70’s, she creates a loosely structured plot like time itself, made up of rivulets of events that swirl and mingle into the larger river of time and history. This coupled with the sultry voice of narrator Christina Traister, giving life to Reno, our guide on this odyssey as she shares her experiences with the cool, objectivity of an anthropologist makes The Flamethrowers an entoxicating motorcycle ride that speeds us out of a place of conformity to a world of intellectual possibilities. This is a ride with all the excitement and uncertainty of the open road. A ride worth taking.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful