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Music for Torching Paperback – April 5, 2000
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Paul and Elaine first popped up in Homes's collection The Safety of Objects, as a couple having the happiest night of their lives smoking crack while the kids are away. Their happiest night here is when they tip the barbecue and burn their house halfway down. The story proceeds with a nightmare zombie logic from there, with a funny-scary ironic tone. "Paul notices that the color of her eye shadow is Fiction, and her lipstick is called Sheer Fraud.... 'What happened to the dining-room table, Elaine? Why'd you chop it to pieces?'" he wonders. "The damage was irreparable," his wife replies. Homes describes nice people doing not-so-nice deeds in luminous, precise prose way better than Bret Easton Ellis, as well as Joyce Carol Oates, and occasionally within range of John Updike. But Homes is really the evil spawn of Grace Metalious and Quentin Tarantino. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Such powerful responses, both positive and negative, are the result of reading fantastic writing. Ms. Homes has the power to manipulate the reader's emotions through her words-- although the result is obviously different in each case. But there is no denying that reading this novel will affect the reader in some way. It just can't be ignored.
This novel is on the whole generally accessible on a surface level, but very gritty underneath. When Elaine offers the possibility of attending medical school while at a dinner party, one can't help but laugh at the absurdity-- and then immediately weep at the fact that Elaine would never be able to do such a thing.
This novel is worth the time and effort, as long as the reader has an open mind.
All this happens on the first two pages, and my immediate thought is oh, no, not another novel about a decaying, suburban marriage. Well, actually, it is another novel about a decaying, suburban marriage, but the good news, the saving grace of it all, is that it is quite hilarious.
The couple, Paul and Elaine, are totally out of spiritual fuel. Their exasperation with their lives is manifested when, on sudden impulse during a barbecue, they use lighter fluid to spread flames from the grill to the outside of their house. They make a quick departure, and return several hours later to find the house damaged but still standing. While repairs are made they stay with friends who seem to be from another planet. They farm out their two boys to other couples, and then, to fill in the dead spots in their lives, they engage in affairs. Elaine tries out lesbianism, while Paul spends time, much time, with two women acquaintances.
Every day Paul goes into work determined to have the most productive day imaginable, and every day he spends his office hours doing next to nothing. Well I shouldn't say he is completely inert. He does go out for long lunches and bed sessions with a woman known only as "The Date". He also gets tattooed in a nether region of his anatomy. Elaine lunches with a vocational counselor to see if some form of education would start her on a course of rejuvenation. But these flailing gestures do not bring peace and happiness to our weary couple.
The novel mocks not only the suburban couple, but also the suburban community of friends, and the workplace.Read more ›
_Music For Torching_ looks (and is) more conventional than _Alice_. Yet Homes manages to make the supposedly tired and overworked theme of suburban alienation and angst suprisingly gripping. For the first half to two-thirds of the book, I enjoyed it as a sort of cartoon for grownups, with dimly recognizable people involved in farcical situations, and a sort of mild but ever-present threat in every line that seemed to promise anything could happen. Dialogue seems especially rich with implications and unspoken realities. (The word "fine" and variations on "Everything's fine" somehow rung every tone from biting irony to utter sincerity.)
But by the last third I found myself laughing out loud on occasion, and surprised to find myself actually caring about Paul and Elaine, the central couple of the plot. How did Homes do that?
Strange things happen all through the narrative -- a couple impulsively attempts to burn down their house, female suburbanites initiate a fiery sexual affair, a cop commits attempted rape -- but the author often manages to pinpoint the motivations of the characters to perfection. The sex between Paul and his mistress, "Mrs. Apple," for example, seems to capture the essence of an affair when it works.
I'm convinced this writer can do just about anything she wants. The only reason I give this book four stars is to indicate that _The End of Alice_ was a little stranger, a little more bracing, a little better. I'm rating Homes against herself here, not against other writers.
The characters are way out there, yet you can somehow identify and relate with them. Suddenly don't like where you live? Just burn down the house! The humor here is different and strange, and not everyone who reads this expecting normality is going to enjoy it. I myself was laughing aloud at many points.
If you enjoy a dark, scathing look at suburban life (I have to liken it a bit to the film 'American Beauty' but more twisted) then this is a book you should pick up immediately. Homes is a talented author and I will be looking forward to everything she writes.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book captures Craziness of life in the warm and wonderful way I will certainly read the authors other worksPublished 2 months ago by Phillip Issacs
I bought this book from a yard sale - "BEST BOOK EVER READ"!!!!
Every page was a surprise - Did not expect the end - quite dark - Will be buying other books from Ms. Read more
Great read. A little slow, but always interesting. Took me a while to get through it but once I finished it I wanted more. Emotional roller coaster.Published 6 months ago by Amanda
Classic A.M. Homes in the sense of absurd, anxiety-provoking set-up that draws you in from the start. Yes, there are flaws. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Amy S.
Definitely a page turner for sure! A story of two spouses trying to find the true narrative of their life while enduring several struggles along the way. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Raven
haunting, unsettling, heartrending....in my mind I was continually giving them advice!! All couples should read this.Published 23 months ago by Judith Cearns
Author 's sex fantasies does not amuse me. I would like to have this book deleted from Mathilda's library.Published 23 months ago by F.J.Putter
A.M. Homes is a writer with a fine eye. Her novels capture ordinary psychology with humour and a good sense of the apposite. Read morePublished 23 months ago by reader 451
Another of a.m homes' novels about the dark undercurrents of suburban living in the USA. After a fire disrupts the rhythms of an affluent American suburb, lives begin to smear... Read morePublished on April 28, 2014 by Linda Cameron