“The Hard Crowd is wild, wide-ranging, and unsparingly intelligent throughout.” —Taylor Antrim, Vogue
From a writer celebrated for her “chops, ambition, and killer instinct” (John Powers, Fresh Air), a career-spanning collection of spectacular essays about politics and culture.
Rachel Kushner has established herself as “the most vital and interesting American novelist working today” (The Millions) and as a master of the essay form. In The Hard Crowd, she gathers a selection of her writing from over the course of the last twenty years that addresses the most pressing political, artistic, and cultural issues of our times—and illuminates the themes and real-life experiences that inform her fiction.
In nineteen razor-sharp essays, The Hard Crowd spans literary journalism, memoir, cultural criticism, and writing about art and literature, including pieces on Jeff Koons, Denis Johnson, and Marguerite Duras. Kushner takes us on a journey through a Palestinian refugee camp, an illegal motorcycle race down the Baja Peninsula, 1970s wildcat strikes in Fiat factories, her love of classic cars, and her young life in the music scene of her hometown, San Francisco. The closing, eponymous essay is her manifesto on nostalgia, doom, and writing.
These pieces, new and old, are electric, vivid, and wry, and they provide an opportunity to witness the evolution and range of one of our most dazzling and fearless writers. “Kushner writes with startling detail, imagination, and gallows humor,” said Leah Greenblatt in Entertainment Weekly, and, from Paula McLain in the Wall Street Journal: “The authority and precision of Kushner’s writing is impressive, but it’s the gorgeous ferocity that will stick with me.”
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 na f 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.