Tag: New York

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

Posted November 2, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

The Flamethrowers by Rachel KushnerTitle: The Flamethrowers (Goodreads)
Author: Rachel Kushner
Published: Harvill Secker, 2013
Pages: 383
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Reno is a young artist from Nevada who moves to New York with the ambitious dream of making it in the art world. In a new city she finds herself as an outsider; lonely and spending her weekends watching the people of the city. She intends to turn her fascination with motorcycles and speed into art, ironically moving to the east to create art about her life in the west. Eventually she finally makes it into the New York art scene only to find that it is full of more posers than artists.

Rachel Kushner’s second novel The Flamethrowers seemed to get a lot of book buzz when it first came out but I don’t know anyone that has read it. I was walking through my library looking at all the random books they have when I came across this one and decided I will try it. This may have been a mistake, it was a tough start; I failed to find something to keep me interested to begin with and that struggle continued throughout the entire novel. In hindsight I probably should have put the book aside and tried again later but it was a library book so I forced myself through it.

I am struggling to work out if the book was the problem or if it was just the wrong time to read it. This is a particular problem, I can see glimpses of morbid beauty throughout this novel and for all intents and purposes this should have been the type of book I would enjoy. However I feel no desire to try and reread this book to find out who was at fault.

I spendta lot of time feeling disconnected from the plot, but I have to wonder if this was intentional. The Flamethrowers is a novel about the unspoken rules of modern society; how we should act in order to fit into the social circles. The need to belong runs high through this book but this is more than just social status. There are insights into art, reputation, sanity, love and life that play a big part in that ultimate class/social struggle.

I felt like this book was constructed along the lines of Midnight Cowboy but set in the world of Andy Warhol. Replace the word prostitute with the word artist and you pretty much get the idea of what to expect from The Flamethrowers. However, this felt more like a social satire on the art world, poking fun at all the poseurs and the art scene. The idea that Reno felt the need to move to New York to pursue her art career places a big part in The Flamethrowers and is what led me to suspect this was a parody.

Weirdly enough, trying to gather my thoughts and understand what happened in the novel in order to write this review gave me more insight than reading the book. The book felt like a constant state of confusion which my brain had to sort out later. There was something there in this novel but sadly I never connected. I would love to find someone who loved this book to understand what I missed.


The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman

Posted May 23, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 3 Comments

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle WaldmanTitle: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P (Goodreads)
Author: Adelle Waldman
Published: Henry Holt and Co., 2013
Pages: 256
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When I first started reading Adelle Waldman’s debut novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, my first thoughts were that this is Sex in the City from a male perspective. To some extent my first impressions weren’t far off, that is not to say this isn’t a great novel. If you want a modern novel about the dating world then this is the one for you. Nate Piven is a Brooklynite about to blast into the literary scene; that is to say, his novel is about to be published and in his circles that is all that matters.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P is a study into the dating life of, you guessed it, Nate Piven. He is a pretentious misogynist asshole, with a terrible track record when it comes to women. Nate suddenly finds himself with options; his gorgeous ex-girlfriend, a business reporter and a smart, intelligent nice girl. You can probably guess how this novel plays out; Waldman’s plot is far from perfect and sometimes predicable but that is not the reason to read her book in the first place.

The novel is an exploration into the modern dating world as well as a glimpse into the New York literary scene. Adelle Waldman does an amazing job exploring the dating scene and the modern man. She gets the male voice almost perfect, a little clichéd but maybe that is just how man are. I can’t help but get frustrated at Nate, I found myself wanting to yell, “Use your words” at the page multiple times. It can be infuriating to see all the stupid mistakes he keeps making but the journey makes for a great novel.

I don’t want to be picky but the characters in The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P were predominantly white and that felt like a bit of a problem. I always think of New York City as a diverse city, the literary world may not be as diverse but there is diversity in it, however this felt more like the TV representation of New York. In fact this novel felt so much like it was written in the hopes that it could be converted into a TV show or movie, I almost expected there to be a ‘token black guy’. I don’t think it would have taken much effort to add some diversity into the novel; I would have been happy if they mentioned one character being African American, Asian American or anything just to add a touch of multiculturalism into the book. I don’t know why I care about the diversity in this novel more than others; I think I enjoyed it so much I was just looking for flaws.

Reading about the dating life of Nate, you get a sense of his psychology. His attitude towards women, his complicated relationship with his parents, his fear of commitment and his complacency in a relationship; it all felt so real. The kind of thoughts that I remember having when I was younger, the modern men’s struggles to get their lives together, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P seemed to really get this right.

Despite the flaws in the novel, I was really impressed; Adelle Waldman’s debut novel really got the modern dating world right. Well, I’m old and married now but it was how I imagine it would be like out there for a single person. Nate’s friend Aurit’s got it right, “We might as well be on fucking Sex and the City”. I’m sure a younger person might compare this novel to something like Girls but if you are looking for a novel about dating you should check out The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.  I especially enjoyed all the bookish conversations in this novel, which always makes a novel better.


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Posted July 20, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran FoerTitle: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Goodreads)
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005
Pages: 326
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I read this book because in preparation for the movie and thought that was a good excuse to read it. I’ve been interested in reading a Jonathan Safran Foer for a while (yet another step in becoming a book snob) and now I had no excuse. While the movie looks really good, I’ve struggled with how it would work now that I’ve read the book. There is a lot of key elements of this book that would not translate well in a movie, for example Oskar’s inner thoughts, the letters he writes to random people that interest him and then there is the renter (Oskar’s grandfather) who doesn’t speak at all and writes everything on paper for others to read.

This book was such a pleasure to read, while it’s not a particularly exciting plot; the characters and the writing were just so great that it was nothing but a joy to read. I’ve heard people call Jonathan Safran Foer’s writing manipulative and even overly sweet and I can see what they are saying, in this book everyone seemed to be nice and have very little flaws but for me I think this is just simply because this particular story was told by a 9 year old boy. There are a lot of elements of trauma and mourning as the family struggle to come to terms with the events of 9/11 and losing someone so close to them. Even Oskar himself struggles between self-destruction and self-preservation throughout this book but overall the book comes across as very light and sweet.

I really did enjoy this book, while I might have some issues with the book and the upcoming movie adaptation I highly recommend this book. Not often do I get such pleasure in the writing style of a book but Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was one of those books I liked simply because it was beautifully written.