Rachel Kushner is the only writer to be nominated for a National Book Award for a first and second novel. The latter, The Flamethrowers, was published last year and became a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book. In an op-ed piece, a senior writer at Salon called The Flamethrowers "the Great American novel." In The New Yorker, James Wood praises Kushner's combination of "the seasoned triumphs of the traditional American novel" (saturated with realism, he means) and "the necessary innovations of postmodern fiction," stating that it is simply "a pure explosion of now." Undoubtedly one of the most talked about books of the year, The Flamethrowers begins with two motorcycle races, on different continents and in different decades, and spends most of its time in the art world of 1970s New York. Kushner was scheduled to appear as part of City Arts & Lectures, but had to cancel; this event, in conversation with esteemed curator of contemporary art Natasha Boas, is her only Bay Area appearance.