Mysterious, lithe and mutable, The Flamethrowers is propelled less by its protagonist—a cipher whose identity shifts in reaction to those around her—than by the preening artistes, New York socialites and Italian motorcycle mechanics who pop into the frame of her personal Warhol film. On this exhilarating ride, Kushner plumbs not just the permutations of identity, but the ’70s art world, civilization’s debt to those exploited for profit and the transporting power of a shaggy dog story.
E-book sales leveled off, Amazon started paying some sales tax, and many indie shops managed to thrive in somewhat hostile environs: Though still a bit uneasy, 2013 was the year that the lit world eased off the gloom and doom just a touch. True, Random House and Penguin merged, and many publishers continue to fear an ultimate Highlander-like showdown with Amazon CEO (and new Washington Post owner) Jeff Bezos, but nothing deterred the arrival of great literature. Some of the best books of the year—The Goldfinchby Donna Tartt, Tenth of December by George Saunders—were also the biggest books, but we found as much joy in smaller, stranger titles—Duplex by Kathryn Davis, White Girls by Hilton Als—that nabbed our attention.