At last, I have made it through the Slough of Despond and have landed myself in a couple books that really caught my interest. Okay, Slough of Despond is a bit extreme. The set aside Prose book and the disappointing Cantor book were more like a slightly squishy ground that got my shoes muddy. But the ground has firmed up and I am happily striding along first enjoying Don’t Let Me Be Lonely and now embarking on The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner. I just started it a couple days ago and have been reading a little every night which means I’m at page 45. But it has been a good 45 pages! I like the style and the story is going somewhere even if I don’t know where that somewhere is.
Have you read the book? So far there are two narratives. It begins with WWI in 1917. A man named Valera is cutting a motorcycle headlamp off the bike of his dead friend who had just slammed into a tree in the woods because he was going too fast and lost control. The headlamp was salvageable, the bike, not so much. The pair are in the cycle battalion and had fallen a bit behind their squadron. Up comes a German soldier and Valera beans him in the head with the motorcycle lamp.
And then we get a chapter in 1975 and we meet Reno, a young woman and artist riding her Valera motorcycle to the Salt Flats in Nevada to participate in time trials there and at the same time create what she hopes will be some interesting Land Art. It is an exhilarating chapter, first as she speeds down the highway and then later as she speeds across the salt flats at 148 miles an hour. On a motorcycle. But before we know exactly what happens we are back to Valera in 1917 who then flashes us back to his childhood in Alexandria, Egypt and a bit later to 1912 Rome where he is about to finish his university degree and where he rides his first motorcycle.
Kushner is thus far showing herself to be skilled at pacing and character development, letting Reno and Valera reveal who they are through their actions and thoughts. No paragraphs long info-dumps telling the reader about them or having some other character tell us. Nope, it is character development as it should be, a gradual getting-to-know-you.
I have no idea what the book is about. I have read good things about it without managing to retain any sort of plot summary and I have avoided reading the synopsis on the dust jacket. All I know is that I am a happy camper at the moment. Amazing what a couple good book can do for a person.