An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England New Hardcover With Dust Jacket 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

Brock Clarke is the author of seven books of fiction, most recently a collection of short stories, The Price of the Haircut His novels include The Happiest People in the World, Exley which was a Kirkus Book of the Year, a finalist for the Maine Book Award, and a longlist finalist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award , and An Arsonist s Guide to Writers Homes in New England which was a national

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  • Hardcover
  • 305 pages
  • An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England
  • Brock Clarke
  • English
  • 22 November 2019
  • 9781565125513

10 thoughts on “An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England

  1. says:

    I really wanted to love this book I couldn t tell you why, but I wanted this one to be a triumph.But, considering it took countless small bursts of very reluctant reading over the course of the entire fall to get through it, I have to classify this one as a total bust Even disappointing still is that I don t even have a great reason other than to say that it was just bad The first and foremost problem here is that the narrator is a total disaster Sam is a convicted arsonist who, through some stroke of luck, has managed to create a decent life for himself prior to the start of the book Before the first five pages are up, you can tell that Sam is whining, snively, spineless, and very much a bore But, something happens, and as the book progresses and he lets his world spin out of control, it comes to the point where you realize that if you didn t care so little about his life and the book , you d want to punch him The plot is also implausible full of stock characters whose predictable actions drive the story to an ending you definitely could expect Everything just seemed too forced to be creative or interesting, yet not forced enough to the point where the campiness could ve been entertaining in and of itself I kept hoping that Clarke had some sort of gimmick lying in wait, ready to satisfy readers who put up with the novel but no, nothing Wouldn t it have spiced things up if at the very end, you had found out that this was all a dream Or maybe a paranoid rant from the looney bin I am having a great deal of trouble understanding why this has managed to get so much intelligista acclaim, while being panned consistently by regular readers Did the critics really get through the whole mess I ll give this doozy one star, for being able to pull the wool over their eyes and, okay, fine, because the book jacket is clever.

  2. says:

    You know, I really considered giving up on this about sixty pages in, and I probably should have it never got any better It was just so un compelling And the main character was really unlikeable, which drives me nuts It reminded me of A Confederacy of Dunces, which I don t remember much but definitely remember hating this had the same kind of bumbling, not very smart protagonist who just doesn t seem to get why bad things keep happening to him He was so whiny and stupid and boring Why should I go on a three hundred page journey with someone I can t stand The other thing that drove me absolutely crazy about this book was that the narrative kept doubling over on itself, like in the middle of describing some kind of action or reaction, it would start to discuss broader ideas and concepts, like For those of us who ve lost it, love is also the thing that makes us speak in aphorisms about love, which is why we try to get love back, so we can stop speaking that way Aphoristically, that is What That s both convoluted and incredibly insipid There were all these realizations or like comments on the human condition or something, which were uninspired and uninteresting and really just served to distract me from the uninspired and uninteresting plot It reminded me, strangely, of one of my most favorite books ever, Daniel Handler s Adverbs , where he does a similar kind of thing, but with achingly beautiful metaphors, and with ideas that are thrilling and original and wonderful and sad Brock Clarke is no Daniel Handler, is what I m trying to say And speaking of the writing Ugh Here is a convolutedly stupid metaphor, which happens right after our, uh, hero has relieved himself after needing to pee for a long time, and someone has just told him that he doesn t have any money Says our hero I empathized his lack of money weighed heavily on him and he needed relief from it, his poverty being to his vessel what my pee had just been to mine Ew Idiotic.Here s one quote, which combines bad writing with bad allusions with bad ideas I know nothing about her, not even her name, although I think about her all the time, the way you do about people and things which change your life forever although I doubt she thinks about me, which is the way life works, which is why I m sure Noah couldn t ever stop thinking about his Flood, but once the water receded, I m sure it didn t once think about him What Monumentally stupid Just like this whole monumentally stupid book.

  3. says:

    1.5 starsWhat an incendiary turd this wasThis seemed the output from a sadistic creative writing class assignment, requiring Its MFA hopefuls to build a novel around a computerized random idea generated premise, than anything Brock Clarke could ve dreamed up I absolutely loved his novel Exley, but this one, AAGTWHINE , was much too convoluted, even for my predilection for quirky fiction.

  4. says:

    This book is a really fun read without being a frivolous read In fact, the author takes on a myriad of dark themes, but in the voice of his main character, Sam Pulsifer, has a way of making even the most atrocious goings on seem hilariously funny Sam is a self confessed bumbler, habitual liar, and accidental arsonist, and yet in the hands of Brock Clarke, somehow none of that seems unusual And believe me, that s not the half of the unusual aspects of this book and its characters Like Irving or Vonnegut or Richard Russo at his most inventive, never once do we question the believability of any of Clarke s characters or the wacky shenanigans that occur in these pages And that s doubly interesting, because much of the book has to do with authors and their characters, and a continual debate about which ones seem like real people For me, this book was a big, raucous, crazy, poignant, shocking, lovable atrocity that you miss the second it s over.

  5. says:

    This was a great story with an interesting narrative style, ruined by yet another pinball protagonist I m sick of novelists annoying me with characters that bounce around while people do things around them and especially to them Instead of acting, they choose the path of silence, the path of not doing anything For instance, every chance the protagonist gets to make a choice especially an important one, he does nothing at all The worst part is that this bullshit indecisiveness is usually put down to some characteristic trait of indecisiveness or in this case, bumbling Maybe the style these days is to write protagonists that might as well not even be there I get that making no choice is still a choice But that s not a new lesson remember that old Rush song If you choose not to decide, you still have made choice Still, there s a heartwarming message we can get from this Even if you do nothing, and coast through your life, trying hard not to make waves, your in actions still have effects on the people around you You don t have to change the world to change the world But please, deliver us this idea in an essay, not another freakin novel.

  6. says:

    I have to admit, I think I was expecting something completely different out of this book.It started out well enough Sam Pulsifer, a native of Amherst, Massachusetts, accidentally burned down the Emily Dickinson house when he was eighteen He has, since then, served his time seven years in a minimum security prision, hanging out with corrupt bond analysts , gone to college he has a degree in packaging science he helped invent the zip loc bag , gotten married to a tall woman named Anne Marie who is probably too pretty for him and had two kids Katherine and Christian.All is well, until one day where, through a strange chain of events, Sam is accused of cheating on his wife which he didn t do , gets kicked out of his own house, and moves back in with his parents of whom he didn t speak to his family he told them his parents died in a house fire a lie that will prove to be ironic in multiple ways later on.And then, for no apparent reason, writers homes around New England mysteriously begin to catch fire and it wasn t Sam I guess my biggest problem with this novel is the fact that Sam is not terribly likeable He is a self professed bumbler, and when he bumbles it s not cute, or funny It s frustrating.The story had potential, and, for the most part, I enjoyed the story But I won t be reading it again any time soon.

  7. says:

    I picked this one up because it had a lot of great reviews That ll teach me There have been few books that have given me less likable characters, or storyline The initial idea is a really good one, and I really hoped for some sort of saving grace in it all, but I never once found myself rooting for the protagonist, he was merely protagonizing to read about If ever there were a book I d warn people against reading this would be it or Jpod by Coupland, but don t get me started on that just yet I d avoid this one iffin I were youse.

  8. says:

    An Arsonist s Guide to Writer s Homes in New England is the odyssey of Sam Pulsifer, a perpetual but completely accidental ne er do well His life story is rather convoluted, so suffice it to say that he snuck into the Emily Dickinson home one fateful night, eager to check out the veracity of several spooky stories his mother told him growing up, and unwittingly started a mighty conflagration that reduced the historic landmark to rubble and killed the amorous couple he did not know was inside Fifteen years later, Pulsifer has gotten out of prison and started his life anew in a new town Everything seems to be going well, until Thomas Coleman, the son of the couple he accidentally killed, shows up on his doorstep eager for revenge And someone starts torching the homes of famous writers in New England, causing the police to investigate Pulsifer And the life he has worked so hard to build starts coming apart at the seams.Brock Clarke is a capable enough writer, and he certainly has a great deal of wit The problem is that he has too much of it, and he just can t seem to stop showing it off He suffers from a serious case of too muchness Each chapter is drowning in absurd plot twists and cock eyed reasoning that digs Pulsifer deeper and deeper into his own private hell And it gets very painful by the halfway point of Arsonist Just look at the title of this novel it s kind of cute and amusing, if a wee bit pretentious Now imagine getting beaten over the head with that kind of humor for 303 pages and you have an idea of what it is to slog through this book It s relentless The plot gets so ridiculously contrived by page fifty that you ll have a headache from slapping your head and asking he did WHAT after Pulsifer s latest egregious misstep Honestly, bumbling doesn t begin to describe him even Inspector Clouseau would think Sam Pulsifer is insane, and that says a lot Making what by all rights could have been a light hearted romp irritating and painful.It s a shame.

  9. says:

    A great title, an interesting premise and a boatload of good reviews persuaded me to pick up this book for a buck at a library sale Wow what a disappointment I ve never come across a character in fiction who was so annoying, unrealistic and just plain stupid But not stupid in an entertaining sense, just stupid in an annoying f ed up stupid sense I don t mind authors who have characters write in the first person who have clouded judgment or who deliberately mislead you or who don t learn anything during the course of the novel However, this guy s decisions were just totally beyond any sense of realism even for a dark comic novel This book wasn t a bit funny, and while I again love the premise and the literary tweaks and allusions, this was just a grueling read I made it about 160 pages in the way of diligently reading and thinking about it, and then decided to skim my way through the rest, hoping for a payoff that didn t exist or some passage that would make me slow down and enjoy the experience Unfortunately, that didn t happen Please do yourself a favor and skip this book Oh, and I want my dollar back

  10. says:

    Sam Pulsifer is an everyman if you consider it ordinary to accidentally burn down Emily Dickinson s house and go to prison Now released, can Sam find a new life as a husband and father while trying to prove his innocence when other writers homes start going up in smoke Fear and love might leave a man complacent, but jealousy will always get him out of the van Every so often, a book grabs your attention with the opening sentence and holds you all the way to the last period Unfortunately, this isn t one of those books Brock Clarke s attempt at a quirky, humorous series of misfortunes simply fails to achieve the most important goal of any story making the reader care about the story An Arsonist s Guide to Writers Homes in New England is the rambling diatribe of a hapless in fact, clueless self described everyman who can t help being railroaded for crimes he didn t commit Clarke foreshadows almost everything that is going to happen to Sam Pulsifer within the first 30 pages, so there is no mystery or tension to propel the reader along There is an inevitability to everything that happens to Sam and he has no interest in even participating in his own life, blind to what is going on around him only because he has his hand over his own eyes The entire plot is such a quagmire it prevents the story from being anything other than a bore In addition to the entire story being uninteresting, the prose is grating Told from Sam s perspective, it is an annoying internal dialog where he consistently demonstrates that he is incapable of completing a full sentence without wandering off to some other topic After about two chapters of this I was not only frustrated with reading it, I didn t care about what happened to any of the characters, especially Sam Listening to him tell his story I quickly understood why he didn t have any friends and nobody wanted to talk to him about anything Even Sam is uninterested in himself, which leaves anyone reading his story wondering why we should be interested in him either.I m not sure if Clarke was attempting to paint a picture of what it is like inside the mind of a hopeless victim of life But whether it was or not, An Arsonist s Guide to Writers Homes in New England really missed the mark and only succeeded in making me wish I had purchased something else to read.

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