Now that you have met my personal book advisor, let’s dive right in with a book I got from Mallory! My very first book recommendation, through Mallory, presented by me, especially for you! By now, I have a list to choose from by the way and I was very much in doubt between two authors: Rachel Kushner and Hanya Yanagihara. Kushner won the race eventually. Because her book is a trip! On speed! Literally!
Rachel Kushner’s second book, The Flamethrowers, was published in 2013 by Scribner and I received it from Mallory for my birthday in 2015. Most of the story is told from the perspective of Reno, a twenty something female motorbike rider, who intents on turning her fascination with motorcycles and speed into art, and for that reason, moves to New York City. Living among artists, poseurs and story-tellers, she starts a relationship with Sandro Valera, an older Italian artist, who is also the son of TP Valera and as such, the heir of a motorcycle manufacturer.
The Valera family history takes you through the First World War, Rome, rubber-tapping in 1930s Brazil and eventually to Sandro Valera. Reno’s character takes you to Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, to the colorful art scene of New York City and back to the Valera family history. Eventually, both worlds clash, or better, crash, leaving the reader looking through the rumble for what is left of their lives.
Why Kushner’s book won my race, however, has less to do with what the book is about than with the speed of it. I have simply never experienced a book like it. Together with Reno, you put on your leather suit, get on the bike and start racing. And you do not get off, until you finished the book. Like when Amelie shows the blind man the world in Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain, but you are the blind man, and Kushner is Amelie. It is exhilarating and addictive. The book is just full of micro-stories, with the most fascinating and intriguing characters. Compared with these characters, the character of Reno seems almost boring and spineless. I kept wondering throughout the book why she was with Sandro to begin with, as love does not seem to be the reason, but in contrast to some other reviewers, this anomaly did not put me off, but rather kept me engaged with Reno – and her motifs for being with Sandro – but also with who I was myself at that age.
It was the first time in my life that I deeply mourned having finished a book. I was sad for days and I know now that it had everything to do with the trip this book was. I was also happy to find out that I was not the only one experiencing such a rush by reading this book. On Duncan Quinn’s website, I found a similar review. If you are looking for a more critical view on the book, read the book review from the New York Times. Or better yet, just read the book and see for yourself, and then tell me if you experienced any withdrawal syndromes. I would also like to read from you if you have had any similar book experience with other books, because I wouldn’t mind experiencing another book trip like that!