cover image The Hard Crowd: Essays 2000–2020

The Hard Crowd: Essays 2000–2020

Rachel Kushner. Scribner, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-1-982-15769-2

Character sketches and nostalgic detail pepper this wide-ranging essay collection from Kushner (The Mars Room). Blending criticism with memoir, Kushner tackles such subjects as abolitionism and the Bay Area’s biker scene in the 1980s. “Girl on a Motorcycle” and “Not with the Band” trace the author’s exposure to “hard” lifestyles, including surviving a high-speed motorcycle crash in Mexico and, while working as a bartender in San Francisco, realizing that mere proximity to rock fame would never satisfy her own creative ambition. “We Are Orphans Here” is a striking account of both the violence and the vitality of Shuafat Refugee Camp, where Palestinians live as “refugees in their own city.” “Lipstick Traces” and “Duras with an S” bring the work of Clarice Lispector and Marguerite Duras to life with vivid biographical details (Lispector had “a sense of humor that veered from naïf wonder to wicked comedy”), while “Made to Burn” and “Bunny” offer glimpses into the genesis of Kushner’s 2013 novel The Flamethrowers. The memoir essays sometimes settle for simple nostalgia rather than arriving at a revelation, a dilemma Kushner seems aware of: “The things that I’ve seen and the people I’ve known: maybe it just can’t matter to you.” Still, the author’s fans will enjoy these insights into her evolution as a writer. (Apr.)