I always had this feeling there were two worlds. The one we live in, you know, just streaming along, future into present into past, recorded distortedly in people’s minds, and this other world: stock footage. Small integers of life…which represent whatever did take place…a reference file to reality. (pg 322)
This section of Marvin’s story about stock footage struck me because rather than describing the “two worlds” as reality and fantasy, as this novel seems to be trying to get us and the characters to distinguish from each other, it seems that both worlds are reality, but the latter depends on memories and perhaps historical events “someone” decided were significant enough to remember. While we all have our own future, present, and past, everyone is connected through “an index for the existence” of gender, race, and culture which makes up our “reference file(s).”
When applying this to The Flamethrowers, I can’t help but think that this novel is made up of “stock footage,” and in my pursuit to find some purpose for Reno’s character within the text, I have decided that perhaps I was looking at her incorrectly. The art, movements, and different roles of gender and class are what actually matters here. The discussions and events surrounding those things do not particularly shape Reno’s character, rather we are introduced to how she sees these things happening around her (or how she interprets them, as in the case of Valera Sr.) through her role as a tool for reference: “…you’re a reference file for Caucasian skin tones; it doesn’t matter that you exist…you’re an index for the existence of woman, flesh, flesh tones…you, as you, have nothing to do with it.” (pg 322) In light of this, are Caucasian women supposed to sympathize or agree with Reno on her choices and feelings? Are Italian men supposed to reason with Sandro? I think that Kushner was smart in writing this novel as a story rather than just a historical account, because with the addition of characters we can connect with someone and shape our opinions based on their opinions and actions – fulfilling our need for a point of reference.