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The Flamethrowers [Anglais] [Broché]

Rachel Kushner

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Description de l'ouvrage

2 janvier 2014

* Shortlisted for the Folio Prize 2014*

*Longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction*

Reno mounts her motorcycle and sets a collision course for New York.

In 1977 the city is alive with art, sensuality and danger. She falls in with a bohemian clique colonising downtown and the lines between reality and performance begin to bleed.

A passionate affair with the scion of an Italian tyre empire carries Reno to Milan, where she is swept along by the radical left and drawn into a spiral of violence and betrayal.

The Flamethrowers is an audacious novel that explores the perplexing allure of femininity, fakery and fear. In Reno we encounter a heroine like no other.

Best Books of the Year:

* Guardian * New York Times * The Times * Observer * Financial Times * New Yorker * Telegraph * Slate * Oprah * Vogue * Time * Scotsman * Evening Standard *

Shortlisted for the National Book Awards 2013

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2. Spiritual America


I walked out of the sun, unfastening my chin strap. Sweat was pooling along my collarbone, trickling down my back and into my nylon underwear, running down my legs under the leather racing suit. I took off my helmet and the heavy leather jacket, set them on the ground, and unzipped the vents in my riding pants.

I stood for a long time tracking the slow drift of clouds, great fluffy masses sheared flat along their bottom edges like they were melting on a hot griddle.

There were things I had no choice but to overlook, like wind effect on clouds, while flying down the highway at a hundred miles an hour. I wasn’t in a hurry, under no time constraint. Speed doesn’t have to be an issue of time. On that day, riding a Moto Valera east from Reno, it was an issue of wanting to move across the map of Nevada that was taped to my gas tank as I moved across the actual state. Through the familiar orbit east of Reno, the brothels and wrecking yards, the big puffing power plant and its cat’s cradle of coils and springs and fencing, an occasional freight train and the meandering and summer-shallow Truckee River, railroad tracks and river escorting me to Fernley, where they both cut north.

From there the land was drained of color and specificity, sage-tufted dirt and incessant sameness of highway. I picked up speed. The faster I went, the more connected I felt to the map. It told me that fifty-six miles after Fernley I’d hit Lovelock, and fifty-six miles after leaving Fernley I hit Lovelock. I moved from map point to map point. Winnemucca. Valmy. Carlin. Elko. Wells. I felt a great sense of mission, even as I sat under a truck stop awning, sweat rolling down the sides of my face, an anonymous breeze, hot and dry, wicking the damp from my thin undershirt. Five minutes, I told myself. Five minutes. If I stayed longer, the place the map depicted might encroach. A billboard across the highway said schaefer. when you’re having more than one. A bluebird landed on the branch of a sumac bush under the high-clearance legs of the billboard. The bird surfed its slack branch, its feathers a perfect even blue like it had been powder-coated at the factory. I thought of Pat Nixon, her dark gleaming eyes and ceremonial outfits stiff with laundry starch and beading. Hair dyed the color of whiskey and whipped into an unmoving wave. The bird tested out a short whistle, a lonely midday sound lost in the infinite stretch of irrigation wheels across the highway. Pat Nixon was from Nevada, like me, and like the prim little state bird, so blue against the day. She was a ratted beauty-parlor tough who became first lady. Now we would likely have Rosalynn Carter with her glassy voice and her big blunt friendly face, glowing with charity. It was Pat who moved me. People who are harder to love pose a challenge, and the challenge makes them easier to love. You’re driven to love them. People who want their love easy don’t really want love.

I paid for my gas to the sound of men in the arcade room playing a video game called Night Driver. They were seated in low-slung cockpits made of sparkling, molded fiberglass, steering jerkily, pale-knuckled, trying to avoid the guardrail reflectors on either side of the road, the fiberglass cockpits jiggling and rocking as the men attempted to steer themselves out of catastrophe, swearing and angrily bopping the steering wheel with the heel of a hand when they burned and crashed. It had been this way at several truck stops now. This was how the men rested from driving. Later I told Ronnie Fontaine. I figured it was something Ronnie would find especially funny but he didn’t laugh. He said, “Yeah, see. That’s the thing about freedom.” I said, “What?” And he said, “Nobody wants it.”

My uncle Bobby, who hauled dirt for a living, spent his final moments of life jerking his leg to depress the clutch while lying in a hospital, his body determined to operate his dump truck, clutching and shifting gears as he sped toward death on a hospital gurney. “He died on the job,” his two sons said, unmoved. Bobby was too mean for them to love. Scott and Andy had been forced to oil Bobby’s truck every Sunday and now he was dead and they had Sundays to themselves, to oil their own trucks. Bobby was my mother’s brother. Growing up, we’d all lived together. My mother worked nights, and Bobby was what we had as a parent. Done driving his dump truck, he sat inexplicably nude watching TV and made us operate the dial for him, so he wouldn’t have to get up. He’d fix himself a big steak and give us instant noodles. Sometimes he’d take us to a casino, leave us in the parking lot with bottle rockets. Or play chicken with the other cars on I-80, with me and Scott and Andy in the backseat covering our eyes. I come from reckless, unsentimental people. Sandro used this against me on occasion. He pretended I was placed in his life to torture him, when it was really the other way around. He acted smitten but I was the smitten one. Sandro held all the power. He was older by fourteen years and a successful artist, tall and good-looking in his work clothes and steel-toed boots—the same kinds of clothes that Bobby and Scott and Andy wore, but on Sandro they added up to something else: a guy with a family inheritance who could use a nail gun, a drill press, a person not made effete by money, who dressed like a worker or sometimes a bum but was elegant in those clothes, and never hampered by the question of whether he belonged in a given situation (the question itself was evidence of not belonging).

Sandro kept a photo above the desk in his loft, him posing on a couch next to Morton Feldman in his Coke-bottle glasses, Sandro looking cool and aloof, holding a raised, loaded shotgun, its barrel one long half of the letter X crossing the photograph diagonally. Slashing it. It was a black-and-white image but you could see that Sandro’s eyes were the whitish-blue of a wolf ’s, giving him a cold, sly intensity. The photo was taken in Rhinebeck, where his friends Gloria and Stanley Kastle had a place. Sandro was allowed to shoot guns on their property, various handguns and rifles he had collected, some of them made by his family’s company before they got out of the firearms business. Sandro liked shotguns most of all and said if you ever needed to actually kill someone, that was what you’d want, a shotgun. That was his way, to tersely let it be known in his light accent, barely Italian, that he could kill someone if he had to.

Women responded to this. They came on to him right in front of me, like the gallerist Helen Hellenberger, a severe but beautiful Greek woman who dressed as if it were permanently 1962, in a black shift and with upswept hair. We ran into her on Spring Street just before I departed for Reno to pick up the Moto Valera for this trip. Helen Hellenberger, in her tight dress and leather flats, holding her big leather pocketbook as if it were a toolbox, had said she wanted so badly to come to Sandro’s studio. Would she have to beg? She’d put her hand on his arm and it seemed as if she wasn’t going to let go until he said yes. Sandro was with the Erwin Frame Gallery. Helen Hellenberger wanted to steal him for her own gallery. He tried to redirect her by introducing me, not as his girlfriend but as “a young artist, just out of school,” as if to say, you can’t have me, but here’s something you might consider picking up. An offer she had to maneuver around in order to press on and get him to commit to the studio visit.

“With an art degree from . . . where?” she asked me.

“UNR,” I said. I knew she wouldn’t be familiar with the school’s initials.

“She’s influenced by Land Art,” Sandro said. “And her ideas are great. She made a beautiful film about Reno.”

Helen Hellenberger represented the best-known Land Artists, all midcareer, blue-chip, and so I felt especially self-conscious about Sandro’s insistence that she learn about me, my work. I wasn’t ready to show with Helen Hellenberger and in his pretending that I was, I felt Sandro was insulting me without necessarily intending to. It was possible he knew this. That he found some perverse humor in offering me in lieu of himself.

“Oh. Where did you say—” She was feigning a low-level politeness, just enough to satisfy him.

“Nevada,” I said.

“Well, now you can really learn about art.” She smiled at him as if depositing a secret between them. “If you’re with Sandro Valera. What a mentor for someone who’s just arrived from . . . Idaho?”

“Reno,” Sandro said. “She’s going out there to do a piece. Drawing a line across the salt flats. It’s going to be great. And subtle. She’s got really subtle ideas about line and drawing.”

He had tried to put his arm around me but I’d moved away. I knew how I looked to this beautiful woman who slept with half her roster, according to Ronnie Fontaine, who was on her roster himself: I was nothing but a minor inconvenience in her campaign to represent Sandro.

“So you’ll be going out West?” she’d asked before we parted ways, and then she’d questioned me about the particulars of my ride with an interest that didn’t quite seem genuine. Only much later did I think back to that moment, look at it. You’ll be going out of town? Reno, Idaho. Someplace far away.

When I was getting ready to depart, Sandro acted as if I might not be coming back, as if I were leaving him to solitude and tedium, a penance he’d resigned himself to enduring. He rolled his eyes about the appointment Helen Hellenberger had wrangled.

“I’ll be here getting eaten by vultures,” he said, “while you’re teari... --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .

Revue de presse

"Scintillatingly alive... It ripples with stories, anecdotes, set-piece monologues, crafty egotistical tall tales, and hapless adventures" (James Wood New Yorker)

"Kushner is rapidly emerging as a thrilling and prodigious novelist" (Jonathan Franzen)

"One of the most thrilling and high-octane literary experiences I have had in ages" (Colum McCann Sunday Independent)

"It's so good, it's a little frightening. it makes any fretting over the state of the novel look plain silly" (Guardian)

"An adrenalin-fuelled coming-of-age novel" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Unfolds on a bigger, brighter screen than nearly any recent American novel I can remember" (New York Times)

"An ambitious and serious American novel. The sentences are sharp and gorgeously made. The scope is wide. The political and the personal are locked in a deep and fascinating embrace" (Colm Tóibín)

"Dazzling... The Flamethrowers is a virtuoso performance; a ride of ache and pleasure, handled with pinpoint command" (The Times)

"This glittering novel is both carefully structured and exhilarating" (Daily Telegraph)

"Rachel Kushner's fearless, blazing prose ignites the 70s New York art scene and Italian underground" (Vanity Fair)

"A bright burning flame of a novel" (Spectator)

"The Flamethrowers is a strange, fascinating beast of a novel, brimming with ideas, and sustained by the muscular propulsion of Kushner's prose. Kushner emerges as a wildly gifted artist filling a sketchbook with thrilling, eye-catching scenes" (Robert Collins Sunday Times)

"There is an exhilarating freedom to Kushner's writing. Taut, vividly intelligent prose" (David Wolf Prospect)

"Sparky and inventive...a riot of a novel" (Daily Mail)

"Ms Kushner's kaleidoscopic prose carries the novel's shifts in location and person, and the fast-paced rhythm harnesses the thrill of adventure" (Economist)

"Swells with a daunting bravado" (Irish Times)

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 3.3 étoiles sur 5  260 commentaires
91 internautes sur 104 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Beautifully written, albeit often slow 13 mars 2013
Par J. A Magill - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Rachel Kushner writes beautifully. Time and again reading this novel you'll pause to admire a near-perfect sentence or to marvel at an innovative description or a simile that bursts with freshness. Consider for example this evocative passage: "It was the morning of the fourth of July and kids were lighting smoke bombs, sulfurous coils of red and green, the colors dense and bright like concentrated dye blooming through water." Wow. Hardly a page goes by which doesn't contain another such well polished gem. Unfortunately, extraordinary prose can only serve as a pillar for a novel, it can't be the entire foundation. Different readers rely on different aspects of a novel to carry the whole, but for me writing alone isn't enough. When it comes to "The Flamethrowers" other deficiencies of plot and character proved too weighty and subsumed the whole.

Other reviewers and the description have summarized the novel's premise, but here is my take: a beautiful young woman -- the narrator -- recently out of college with a penchant for motorcycles and dreams of becoming an artist moves to New York from out west. She is nicknamed Reno for the city of her birth and quickly falls into the New York art scene of the late 70s. As a plot, this contains all of the needed ingredients for a fine novel.

Yet "The Flamethrowers" depends on Reno captivating the reader. Time and again, she fails at this task for the simple reason that Reno spends so much time "observing" that she forgets, it seems, ever to make any genuine choices. Instead she drifts. She meets people and goes along with them, befriends this one and sleeps with that one, but she seems far more interested in giving us those surroundings than ever really engaging with the plot. The resulting novel often more drags than flows.

To be clear, her observations are often keen, but they feel as though they have less to do with the story and more to do with the author working towards a broader theme. The lives of the rich? Reno has penetrating insights on the irony that just as the wealthy once only ate the whitest white bread as a sign their bounty, now that everyone can eat it, they favor what they once would have considered peasant dark loaves. Likewise in art, Reno muses on the difference between those outside and those in, and how fluidly one can move over those lines. Yet these observations often feel like they are less authentically those of Reno groping to understand her strange new world, and more Kushner groping to offer deep insights.

Perhaps no where is this issue more acute than in the novel's portrayal of New York's SOHO neighborhood in transition. As with the plot, this novel's SOHO feels oppressively thin, more concept than living breathing cultural nexus. Contrast this, for example, with the same neighborhood offered in the same period in Irini Spanidou's "Before" where one gets a sense of the place's real vibrancy. Instead one gets the sense that the setting is offered more as a point of contrast to the modern world and a point of commentary, a movie lot set. In a way, Reno as a character suffers from a similar problem: she is more a collection of attributes than an a recognizable whole, more carefully constructed cypher than someone who leaps into the reader's mind.

On the power of her prose alone -- not to mention the strength of her wonderful debut "Telex From Cuba" -- I will eagerly await Kushner's next novel. "Telex" left my heart pounding with a story I couldn't put down. Unfortunately, with "The Flamethrowers" that same heart rarely even quickened as I trudged my way to the end.
69 internautes sur 80 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Smolders more than rages 18 avril 2013
Par Sean Rueter - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
The Flamethrowers was a challenging but ultimately rewarding read for me. Kushner's prose is beautiful; among the best I've read. But the main narrator (who I guess is called Reno, but I really only recall one character referring to her as that) is a bit of a blank slate. While it becomes clear why the author has made this choice later on, it made it tough for me to connect to her or the novel at various points.

The other issue I had with becoming fully invested in the work was that it at times feels like a collection of essays. I'm not talking about the occasional temporal shifts to the history of the Valera family/corporation. There are passages where one of the characters that "Reno" is observing will rant or wax about some topic or another. These are wonderfully written and contain smart points and clever turns of phrase, but sometimes left me scratching my head after a few pages. But, like the narrator's cryptic viewpoint, this does reveal itself to be thematically relevant later on.

Rachel Kushner has many valuable things that she says with this novel - about art, and gender, and identity...among other things. This review sounds a little more negative than I meant it to, but its purpose is to encourage readers to stick with a sometimes difficult read. I know that I'm glad that I did.
37 internautes sur 44 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An intricate examination of art, revolutionary politics and the risks some people are willing to take in life and love 22 mai 2013
Par Bookreporter - Publié sur
Some novels grab you by the throat. Others seduce you with their intelligence and artistry. Rachel Kushner's THE FLAMETHROWERS, her second novel, is decidedly in the latter category. An intricate examination of art, revolutionary politics and the risks some people are willing to take in life and love, it gains its considerable power through the accretion of closely-observed detail and Kushner's skill at translating that into alluring prose.

"The two things I loved were drawing and speed," says Reno, the protagonist and narrator of most of the novel. Her name, after her Nevada home town, is bestowed on her by a man she meets when she arrives, young, friendless and jobless, but with a passion to make art, in New York City in 1975. She's quickly caught up in the avant-garde art scene and becomes the lover of Sandro Valera, a minimalist sculptor who creates "large aluminum boxes, open on top, empty inside, so bright and gleaming their angles melted together." Sandro, 14 years her senior, a man who recognizes that "vital life was change and swiftness, which only revealed itself through violent convulsions" seems well-matched to Reno.

Kushner takes some time knitting together the threads of her plot, whose circuitous course and sometime languid pace require an attentive reading. In addition to her passion for art, Reno is a motorcycle racer, and the early chapters of the story find her at the Bonneville Salt Flats, trying to break a land speed record in a vehicle manufactured by the Italian tire company owned by Sandro's family. She has also come to the site to photograph the tracks of her motorcycle as a piece of conceptual art. The balance of the novel plays out in the territory between these two pursuits, as we learn more of the controversial story of the influential Valera family and Reno's uncomfortable relationship to it.

By the mid-1970s, when the novel's main action occurs, the antiwar turmoil of America largely has subsided, but the New York Kushner depicts so vividly is a place teeming with a sense of danger, teetering on the edge of the apocalypse. It's a city that largely would be unrecognizable to anyone living there today. These are the days before the cleanup of Times Square, when that scene still was blighted by peep shows, prostitutes and drug addicts. Reno is there at the moment the July 1977 blackout hits the city. In flat, chilling prose ("Robbed a Chemical Bank on Delancey Street; firebombed a retailer of Thom McCan Shoes"), Kushner also catalogs the activities of the real life anarchist group, the Motherf***ers, acts of urban terrorism that would be seen in a vastly different light after 9/11. Andy Warhol and Allen Ginsberg appear, at least obliquely, through their connections to some of the novel's characters, and Kushner's picture of the times is so realistic one almost expects Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe to join the action.

For a novel that begins with a killing on a World War I battlefield and ends 60 years later with Reno alone in snowy Chamonix, France, Kushner displays an impressive command of her story's diverse settings and subjects. She excels at extended set pieces, like her account of a left-wing political demonstration that turns violent in Rome or the smart, but often hostile, banter of artists and artistic hangers-on at a SoHo dinner party. Whether she's describing the harvesting of rubber in a Brazilian jungle or the peculiar mixture of boredom and terror that surrounds the effort to break land speed records in the bleak Utah landscape, Kushner fully inhabits these venues without ever striking a false note.

She is equally skilled at portraying her characters' inner lives, as she shows Reno waiting to race across the stark desert: "I'd spent half a day among those waiting on death and now I was in line for the long course and hoping I was not the sacrifice." And her snapshots of those characters in action possess a similar bite, as in this glimpse of racer Didi Bombonato: "He flicked his hands into open tens, shut fists, open tens. He jumped up and down in a controlled dribble like a prizefighter." Gems like these sparkle on every page and sustain the pleasure of Kushner's work even when the story's momentum occasionally flags.

Embracing the worlds of motorcycle racing, art and radical politics, THE FLAMETHROWERS sweeps us into the swirl of life amid a memorable group of characters to reveal what it's like to live on the edge or aspire to do so. "Life," one of these characters says, "was the one thing to treat as art." As Kushner does that, there are echoes of both Don DeLillo and Joan Didion, whose concerns and sensibility she seems fully capable of carrying into the next generation of American fiction. This is an audacious novel, one that showcases a brave and talented writer at the top of her game.

Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg
34 internautes sur 41 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 Flamethrowers Redux 14 juin 2013
Par marjorie gordon - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
After reading Telex from Cuba, Kushner's previous book, and with all the media hype, I could not wait for this novel to appear in my mailbox. After an hour of reading. hoping the novel would catch fire (as its name implies, this flamethrower was stone cold. The promise of a a coming of age story writ large on the NY art world in the time of Andy Warhol held great promise, That the central character, Reno, loves speed and races a motorcycle at the Nevada Salt Flats offers another opportunity to heat up the story. Instead, the story, and its characters, never really take off, rather they fizzle out. the arc of the story is fragmented never truly coming together into a coherent piece of work. Reno is a young woman with no sense of herself, who looks for love in all the wrong places, and although imbedded in the eccentricity of the NY art world she does not appear to be influenced, in anyway, by her relationship to it. Early on she falls into bed with someone who remains nameless until she meets a wealthy older Italian artist, who becomes her lover, and, conveniently, is a friend of her one night stand. Her Italian lover is a narcissistic male who doesn't treat her right, and really, haven't we had enough of this kind of story? Perhaps the most frustrating is at the books end we leave Reno as we found her, unmoored in the process of becoming an adult. I slogged through to the end, and sold the book back to Amazon.
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 It just seems empty inside.... 18 janvier 2014
Par gammyraye - Publié sur
The love interest of the protagonist in this 2013 novel is an artist, whose artistic creations are described in this way: "...large aluminum boxes, open on top, empty inside, so bright and gleaming their angles melted together....objects that shone like liquid silver." That description summarizes the impact of this novel, in my mind.

The writing is bright and gleaming and shines, with numerous striking descriptions and similes (although sometimes self consciously clever and strained) and a whole series of fascinating little set pieces. It is structured like a classic bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, yet, contrary to expectations, the young protagonist does not seem to mature or change despite all her unusual experiences. Throughout, she reacts rather than acts, letting others determine for her. She seems anonymous (her real name is never given) and empty inside, making the whole novel seem pointless and empty, although polished and well written (for the most part).

The plot goes something like this: the young lady protagonist heads to New York City in the '70s, following her graduation from college in Nevada, where she falls in with the progressive art crowd who are all hip and cool and smart talking. She takes a lover, who happens to be the disengaged son of an Italian industrialist who manufactures motorcycles; she races one of the cycles manufactured by her lover's family on the salt flats of Utah; she rather accidentally becomes the holder of the world land speed record in a race car; she journeys with her lover to Italy, where she meets his snotty family; she becomes accidentally involved in the radical movement in Italy; she returns to New York, where she seems to have learned nothing at all about herself or the world.

Author Kushner cleverly provides several motifs and symbols throughout, but in the end we are left with characters who show no change and elicit no sympathy and a narrative with interesting parts which lead nowhere. It's just....empty.

This novel was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award and is considered a contender for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize. Most reviews have been positive. So I am out of line with the crowd on this one. Take that into consideration.

You know, now that I think about it, maybe the pointlessness was the point. Is that possible?
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