**** The Flamethrowers

By Rachel Kushner – In many publications’ 2013 Top Ten lists, The Flamethrowers: A Novel starts strong, with the heroine testing her new-model Valera motorcycle and her nerve at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Coincidentally, she’s taken up with Sandro Valera, a sculptor of aluminum boxes in Manhattan, where she hopes photographs of her bike’s tracks across the flats will make her mark in the early 1970’s art world, too. This naive gal from Reno, Nevada, is always a couple of steps off pace, trying to hold her own among the older, jaded New York artists and hangers-on, and falls hopelessly behind when Sandro takes her to his wealthy family’s villa above Lake Como. There she encounters the really sharp social knives. Her interactions with Sandro’s mother are breathtaking. I won’t say more about plot, in case you decide to read it. Nice writing. Here’s a sample: “Roy Orbison’s voice entered the room like a floating silk ribbon . . . “And the hair. Black as melted-down record vinyl.” (3/3)

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