Reading The Flamethrowers

elle-the-flame-throwers-de-mdnRachel Kushner’s novel about life in New York in the late 70s is really lively. Her protagonist lived on Mulberry Street in the late 70s, between Spring and Prince. I lived on Mulberry between Prince and Houston. This is a book with historical resonance for me, and dissonance when something is wrong, since Rachel Kushner most definitely was 10 years old when the action was going down.

Not much is wrong, but there is a subplot about a revolutionary group called the Motherfuckers that pushes credulity. A chapter is devoted to their “actions,” including robbing banks, that seem appropriately cool rather than outrageous. Except for this one action:

“Beat up a rock band from Detroit called the Stooges. Beat the shit out of them for not being tough enough, and having a reputation for intensity though it was unearned. The Stooges had played at a rock club on Second Avenue, and just after their set ended word spread that the band was piling into their limousine and heading off to Max’s Kansas City for dinner with rich people and celebrities. The crowd became enraged, dragged the singer and his bandmates from their limousine and forced them back inside the club. The Motherfuckers concentrated on pummeling the singer and then pissed on his satin pants. Which he was still wearing as he lay on his side, groaning. Not quite in the same way he had groaned and yowled onstage, trying to peddle his fake intensity to the young girls, among them Love Sprout and Nadine, Fah-Q’s and Burdmoor’s respective womenfolk. Fah-Q and Burdmoore crossed streams of urine over the body of the singer, and Burdmoore knew that brotherly pacts ended badly. But he was in it to the end. He was ready for badly.”

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