Rachel Kushner was the girl who spent her teens sneaking onto the backs of motorcycles in California. Today, a couple of decades later, she's the novelist who is writing about girls on bikes and becoming something of a literary phenomenon in the process. Five years after her 2008 debut novel, Telex from Cuba, a 2008 National Book Award finalist, Kushner released her highly anticipated second novel, The Flamethrowers (Scribner) on April 2. Set amid the social and political unrest of Manhattan and Rome in the 1970s, the book is a tour de force to say the least, and critics can't seem to get enough of it. When asked how she feels about all the acclaim, Kushner said quietly, "Well, I just got lucky." She speaks thoughtfully, smiles frequently, and chooses her words with a meticulousness, sincerity, and intelligence that makes you wonder what it would be like to be Rachel Kushner for a day. We met this week at her hotel in midtown and caught up about the novel, political fiction, bikes, literary sex scenes, Soho, and fire.
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