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An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England Paperback – September 2, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Sam goes to college, gets a good job, marries well and has two children before the big trouble starts: someone else begins to set fire to other historic homes in New England, and fingers start pointing once again at Sam. But we readers know he didn't do it, don't we? Having read lots of literature in his lifetime but not detective stories, Sam doesn't quite know how to go about investigating the situation and clearing his name. In Sam's case, ignorance is not necessarily bliss; and he unwittingly gets himself in deeper trouble as he goes along. But at least he realizes his limitations: "The truth is that the world is full of bumblers exactly like you, and to think that you're special is just one more thing you've bumbled." Low self-esteem is one of Sam's personal demons.
What sounds like serious business is really a comic tragedy, with many humorous moments found in Sam's assessment of what Life throws at him.Read more ›
Specifically, our narrator Sam Pulsifer is trying to unravel the mysterious surrounding his parents' lies and strange behavior and who is attempting to, and then starts succeeding at, burning down homes of famous authors around the New England area. The end result of Pulsifer solving both these mysteries is that he is baptized by obliteration into adulthood; the world he thought he knew disintegrates before his eyes, and he begins to attempt to atone for all the years of not taking responsibility for his actions.
Now granted, Clarke's novel isn't quite the masterpiece that Special Topics in Calamity Physics is, however that does not diminish the fact that this is a novel you should considering reading because it still is very entertaining and moving; it is a well paced jaunt, told with humor, charm, wit, sadness, self-depreciation, and tinged with heartbreak, about a topic I think we can all agree is quite perplexing - Life.
I also got to hear him read the first chapter of this book at our little conference, so maybe that experience put a better idea into my head of what Sam Pulsifer's voice should sound like: something between gullible and sardonic. Thus when I sat down the other day to read this book, I might have had more preparation to this character's voice than other reviewers.
I think this book *is* hilarious, but I acknowledge that if you're not one for literary allusions, you'll probably hate this book and deride the author as pretentious. There's also some stuff that I think if you haven't been to grad school or worked in a college will also sail right over your head, such as Lees Ardor and her knee jerk antagonism. I think every college worth its salt has a Lees Ardor. (I'm afraid at my school it might be...*me*!) And Harry Potter parents might feel a little defensive after reading this.
The plot is absurd, but not absurdist, and even when I was caught thinking Pulsifer sure was being a moron, I found myself reading along for absolute treasures in prose as some other reviewers have quoted. One of my favorites is when he speculates about his wife whether he's actually made her happy or just too busy to cry.
If you're looking for realistic fiction with deep round rich characters and a suspenseful plot, this will surely disappoint.Read more ›
I kept reading, through to the end, in the hope that Sam Pulsifer, the narrator, would stop observing his life and start taking responsibility for the living of it. Or, perhaps, we'd get another viewpoint which would add a dimension of contextual sense. The bit that did appeal to me (and for which I will allocate two of the three stars) was the notion that a number of different characters thought that the burning of various houses occupied by prominent writers in New England might in some way improve their own lives. This potentially clever idea was essentially lost to me in the bumbling fiasco otherwise known as the life of Sam Pulsifer.
Of course, there is an alternative explanation. This might be an incredibly clever book which only a true literary aficionado will enjoy. Each reader will find a different book between the same covers. All things are possible.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Intricately woven story, very quirky. A pretty sad story set in such an amusing context that you just have to keep reading.Published 3 months ago by J W Love
This book is why I hate writers. The writing style is so anemic, the guy has no balls. I liked the IDEA of the book, and the protagonist, at first, seemed interesting. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Timothy P. Redmond
I really didn't care for it as it was described as a hilarious story and felt it wasn't at all.Published 6 months ago by cd
Sam Pulsifer's long-running confessional first sentence is that of a character who has been branded a killer and arsonist by everyone and is weary of trying to deny it, so he puts... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Cathy A. Adams
The book takes a long time to get going and drags in the middle, the last 50 pages, however, are great. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Nona
An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England proved to be one of those book titles I could not resist forever. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Sam Sattler
readable but self indulgent, self satisfied author who is not as clever as he thinks he isPublished 14 months ago by gerryb
I couldn't stop reading, which I suppose is part of what draws someone into completing a book, even when it's not great. I can't say I didn't become engaged with the characters. Read morePublished 18 months ago by MartiG
it's funny. it's sad. it's poignant. It wasn't what I expected at all. an ode to reading...and writing!Published 19 months ago by BarnaMarg