An arsonist's guide to writers' homes in New England

Brock Clarke

Book - 2007

Saved in:

1st Floor Show me where

FICTION/Clarke, Brock
1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
1st Floor FICTION/Clarke, Brock Checked In
Subjects
Published
Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books Of Chapel Hill 2007.
Edition
1st ed
Language
English
Item Description
"A novel."
Physical Description
303 p. ; 24 cm
ISBN
9781565126145
1565126149
9781565125513
1565125517
Main Author
Brock Clarke (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

New Englander Sam Pulsifer always insisted that burning down Emily Dickinson's Amherst home was an accident. The jury wasn't convinced. Now, after serving 10 years in prison, the 28-year-old is determined to get his life back on track: he gets married, has a couple of kids, and moves into a cookie-cutter Massachusetts suburb called Camelot. But the tranquility doesn't last. After a stranger convinces Sam's wife that her husband is a philanderer, the hapless young man moves back in with his parents. (Since their son's incarceration, the once scholarly Pulsifers have drowned themselves in drink.) At his parents' home, Sam finds hundreds of letters from twisted souls requesting that he burn down other famous writers' abodes. When the residences of Edith Wharton and Mark Twain are set ablaze, Sam becomes the chief suspect. Clarke (Carrying the Torch, 2005) renders a refreshing send-up of the self-indulgent memoir, with a cast of characters by turns tragic and absurd. Among the most memorable: a flame-haired English professor who disparages every literary lion with the most despicable of four-letter words.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

When Sam Pulsifer's parents separated for three years during his childhood, his mother lied about his father's whereabouts and also told Sam ghost stories about the Emily Dickinson House in his hometown of Amherst, MA. At age 18, he broke into the house one night to verify these stories, got spooked by a noise, dropped a lit cigarette, burned down the house, and unwittingly killed its two occupants. After ten years in a minimum security prison, Sam moved to the nearby suburbs to live an anonymous life, attend college, marry, and raise children. All is well until the son of the couple who died in the fire shows up on his doorstep, and fires begin breaking out at the homes of other New England writers. While trying to unravel the mystery of the fires, Sam uncovers the deceptions that have molded his life. Clarke (Ordinary White Boy ) has created a character feebly struggling against fate in a situation both sad and funny, believable and preposterous. It's a setting so bizarre that the clear moral lesson smacks of sarcasm. In the end, however, this quirky story is entertaining and readable. Recommended.—Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island, Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Porvidence [Page 72]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

C larke's fourth book (after the story collection Carrying the Torch ) is the delightfully dark story of Sam Pulsifer, the "accidental arsonist and murderer" narrator who leads readers through a multilayered, flame-filled adventure about literature, lies, love and life. Growing up in Amherst, Mass., with an editor for a father and an English teacher for a mother, Sam was fed endless stories that fueled (literally and figuratively) the rest of his life. Thus, the blurred boundaries between fact and fiction, story and reality become the landscape for amusing and provocative adventures that begin when, at age 18, Sam accidentally torches the Emily Dickinson Homestead, killing two people. After serving 10 years, Sam tries to distance himself from his past through college, employment, marriage and fatherhood, but he eventually winds up back in his parents' home, separated from his wife and jobless. When more literary landmarks go up in flames, Sam is the likely suspect, and his determination to find the actual arsonist uncovers family secrets and more than a bit about human nature. Sam is equal parts fall guy and tour guide in this bighearted and wily jolt to the American literary legacy. (Sept.) [Page 38]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Sam is determined to put his past behind him after serving a prison term for torching an American literary landmark, but when the homes of notable American writers begin to go up in smoke, his history makes him the prime suspect.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Determined to put the past behind him after serving a ten-year prison term for torching an American landmark and killing two people in the blaze, Sam Pulsifer gets married, starts a family, buys a home, and builds a new career, but his past comes back to haunt him when the homes of notable American writers begin to go up in smoke and Sam becomes the prime suspect in the crimes. Reprint.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

"Funny, profound . . . a seductive book with a payoff on every page."—People A lot of remarkable things have happened in the life of Sam Pulsifer, the hapless hero of this incendiary novel, beginning with the ten years he spent in prison for accidentally burning down Emily Dickinson's house and unwittingly killing two people. emerging at age twenty-eight, he creates a new life and identity as a husband and father. But when the homes of other famous New England writers suddenly go up in smoke, he must prove his innocence by uncovering the identity of this literary-minded arsonist. In the league of such contemporary classics as A Confederacy of Dunces and The World According to Garp, An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England is an utterly original story about truth and honesty, life and the imagination.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

"Funny, profound . . . a seductive book with a payoff on every page."'People A lot of remarkable things have happened in the life of Sam Pulsifer, the hapless hero of this incendiary novel, beginning with the ten years he spent in prison for accidentally burning down Emily Dickinson's house and unwittingly killing two people. emerging at age twenty-eight, he creates a new life and identity as a husband and father. But when the homes of other famous New England writers suddenly go up in smoke, he must prove his innocence by uncovering the identity of this literary-minded arsonist. In the league of such contemporary classics as A Confederacy of Dunces and The World According to Garp, An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England is an utterly original story about truth and honesty, life and the imagination.