Congratulations to Michael Cooper, winner of last week's Friday Freebie: N0S4A2 by Joe Hill.
This week's book giveaway is another double-book delight: American Dream Machine by Matthew Specktor and The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner. Both of these novels have been popping up on year-end "Best Of" lists and while I haven't had the chance to read them, I'm pretty sure they'd be among my top reading choices of the year. One lucky reader will win hardcover editions of both books (Bonus! American Dream Machine comes with a special brochure provided by publisher Tin House Books—a map and guide to the Hollywood locations in the novel).
I absolutely loved the opening paragraph of American Dream Machine:
They closed down the Hamlet on Sunset last night. That old plush palace, place where Dean Martin drank himself to death on Tuesdays, where my father and his friends once had lunch every weekend and the maître d’ was quick to kiss my old man’s hand. Like the one they called “the other Hamlet” in Beverly Hills, and “the regular other Hamlet” in Century City . . . all of these places now long gone. Hollywood is like that. Its forever institutions, so quick to disappear. The Hamburger Hamlet, the one on Sunset, was in a class by itself. Red leather upholstery, dark booths, the carpets patterned with a radical and problematic intaglio. Big windows flung sun in front, but farther in the interior was dim, swampy. Waitresses patrolled the tables, the recessed depths where my father’s clients, men like Stacy Keach and Arthur Hill, sat away from human scrutiny. Most often their hair was mussed and they were weeping. Or they were exultant, flashing lavish smiles and gold watches, their bands’ mesh grain muted by the ruinous lighting, those overhead bulbs that shone down just far enough to make the waitresses’ faces look like they were melting under heat lamps. And yet the things that were consummated there: divorces, deals! I saw George Clooney puking in one of the ficuses back by the men’s room, one time when I was in.Here's more about the book from the publisher: "American Dream Machine is the story of two talent agents and their three troubled boys, heirs to Hollywood royalty. It’s a sweeping narrative about fathers and sons, the movie business, and the sundry sea changes that have shaped Hollywood and, by extension, American life. Beau Rosenwald—overweight, not particularly handsome, and improbably charismatic—arrives in Los Angeles in 1962 with nothing but an ill-fitting suit and a pair of expensive brogues. By the late 1970s he has helped found the most successful agency in Hollywood. Through the eyes of his son, we watch Beau and his partner go to war, waging a seismic battle that redraws the lines of an entire industry. We watch Beau rise and fall and rise again, in accordance with the cultural transformations that dictate the fickle world of movies. We watch Beau's partner, the enigmatic and cerebral Williams Farquarsen, struggle to contain himself, to control his impulses and consolidate his power. And we watch two generations of men fumble and thrive across the LA landscape, learning for themselves the shadows and costs exacted by success and failure. Mammalian, funny, and filled with characters both vital and profound, American Dream Machine is a piercing interrogation of the role—nourishing, as well as destructive—that illusion plays in all our lives."
The Flamethrowers burst on the scene with a loud confetti cannon earlier this year. It seems like everyone loved Rachel Kushner's novel—including JFranz:
“I loved Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers.” (Jonathan Franzen)Okay, but what's it about? I'm glad you asked, sailor. Here's the publisher's synopsis, nutshell-style:
“Rachel Kushner’s fearless, blazing prose ignites the 70s New York art scene and Italian underground of The Flamethrowers.” (Elissa Schappell)
“The Flamethrowers unfolds on a bigger, brighter screen than nearly any recent American novel I can remember. It plays out as if on IMAX, or simply higher-grade film stock.” (Dwight Garner)
“Life, gazed at with exemplary intensity over hundreds of pages and thousands of sentences precision-etched with detail—that’s what The Flamethrowers feels like. That’s what it is. And it could scarcely be better. The Flamethrowers is a political novel, a feminist novel, a sexy novel, and a kind of thriller…Virtually every page contains a paragraph that merits—and rewards—rereading." (Tom Bissell)
“Rachel Kushner’s new novel, The Flamethrowers, is a high-wire performance worthy of Philippe Petit. On lines stretched tight between satire and eulogy, she strolls above the self-absorbed terrain of the New York art scene in the 1970s, providing a vision alternately intimate and elevated…[Kushner is] a superb recent-historical novelist…20 brilliant pages [of The Flamethrowers] could make any writer’s career: a set piece of New York night life that’s a daze of comedy, poignancy and violence…What really dazzles…is her ability to steer this zigzag plot so expertly that she can let it spin out of control now and then…The Flamethrowers concludes with two astonishing scenes: one all black, one all white, as striking as any of the desert photographs Reno aspires to shoot, but infinitely richer and more evocative. Hang on: This is a trip you don’t want to miss.” (Ron Charles)
The year is 1975 and Reno—so-called because of the place of her birth—has come to New York intent on turning her fascination with motorcycles and speed into art. Her arrival coincides with an explosion of activity in the art world—artists have colonized a deserted and industrial SoHo, are staging actions in the East Village, and are blurring the line between life and art. Reno meets a group of dreamers and raconteurs who submit her to a sentimental education of sorts. Ardent, vulnerable, and bold, she begins an affair with an artist named Sandro Valera, the semi-estranged scion of an Italian tire and motorcycle empire. When they visit Sandro’s family home in Italy, Reno falls in with members of the radical movement that overtook Italy in the seventies. Betrayal sends her reeling into a clandestine undertow.If you’d like a chance at winning both American Dream Machine and The Flamethrowers, simply email your name and mailing address to
Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line. One entry per person, please. Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on Dec. 19, at which time I’ll draw the winning name. I’ll announce the lucky reader on Dec. 20. If you’d like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week newsletter, simply add the words “Sign me up for the newsletter” in the body of your email. Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).
Want to double your odds of winning? Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter. Once you’ve done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying “I’ve shared” and I’ll put your name in the hat twice.