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Amazon Best of the Month, August 2007: In An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New Englan, the quirkiest title for a book since Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Brock Clarke lights up the page with the chronicle of a man who, as a teenager, accidentally burned down the Emily Dickinson House in Amherst, Massachusetts, killing two people. ("It's probably enough to say that in the Massachusetts Mt. Rushmore of big gruesome tragedy, there are the Kennedys, and Lizzie Borden and her ax, and the burning witches at Salem, and then there's me.") After serving ten years in prison for the crime, Sam Pulsifer moves on with his life, but the emergence of a copycat who's turning New England's literary landmarks to ash puts Sam back in the spotlight and on a quest for the truth. Comparisons to The World According to Garp and A Confederacy of Dunces may be bold, but this heartfelt, funny, and highly entertaining tale promises to be Brock Clarke's breakout book for certain. --Brad Thomas Parsons --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Starred Review. Clarke'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.)
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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 3 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 3 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 4 months ago by Sam Sattler
readable but self indulgent, self satisfied author who is not as clever as he thinks he isPublished 5 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 9 months ago by Martha Grahl
it's funny. it's sad. it's poignant. It wasn't what I expected at all. an ode to reading...and writing!Published 10 months ago by BarnaMarg
The title and the prose style are terrific-- dry, snarky, and absurd. But the main character is hellbent on being passive when he needs to speak up, and on letting his rare moments... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Arts Lover Karen