Frederick Seidel, in an essay on Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers in the latest New York Review of Books, makes that assertion you hear so frequently in book reviews: the novel doesn’t seem “real”:
One of the problems of the book is that while lots of people in it have lots to say about many things, important things included, the things they say never sound like what real people might say, like real thoughts or real speech. The book keeps being entertaining (except for the really bad bits) and keeps being unconvincing.
What snags my attention here is not that I think The Flamethrowers is a success and Mr. Seidel doesn’t, but rather that Mr. Seidel’s criticism rests on the novel’s failure to remind him of his own experience of life. It’s most glaring when he takes down Ms. Kushner for her writing about motorcycles:
They are not very convincing motorcycles, nor are the accounts of how it feels to go fast particularly convincing. I like motorcycles. The race bikes I myself have ridden have mostly been Ducatis, made in Bologna.