Monday, August 4, 2014

Rachel Kushner

Rachel Kushner’s latest novel is The Flamethrowers. Her debut novel, Telex from Cuba, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the California Book Award, and a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book. It was named a best book by the Washington Post Book Book World, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Seattle Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Christian Science Monitor, and Amazon. Kushner's fiction and essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Paris Review, The Believer, Artforum, Bookforum, Fence, Bomb, Cabinet, and Grand Street.

From her Q & A with Rachel Cooke for the Guardian:

The Flamethrowers is such a capacious book, spanning two continents and half a century. How did you get the idea for it?

It began around the time I was selling my first novel. My editor asked my agent: does she have another novel in the works? I didn't but, impulsively, I said I wanted to write a novel about the art world in the 70s. I was thinking about that era. New York was decimated at the time. It was bankrupt, crime was rampant, there were blackouts and looting. But it was also this incredibly vibrant place. You could live on very little money and find a space to work, and you had the freedom to be creative.

Your descriptions of speed in the book – Reno racing across the Utah salt flats – are amazing. Are you a speed freak yourself?

It's opaque to me why I wanted to write about it, but I did spend quite a few years riding motorcycles, and I was a ski racer when I was young. I have crashed on a motorcycle that was going at 140mph, so I know what it feels like. But I don't like to emphasise the autobiographical echoes in the book: there is something about speed that would interest me even if I hadn't known it.

How seriously do you take the art world? In the novel, you seem to be sending up your artist characters. One of them carries a barber's pole wherever he goes.

I take it very seriously, and that's my intention in the book. A lot of people know...[read on]
Learn about Kushner's ten top books about 1970s art.

--Marshal Zeringue