An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke
A Novel

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Synopsis

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.
 

About Brock Clarke

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Brock Clarke is an assistant professor of English and creative writing at the University of Cincinnati. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous reviews and journals, and his short-story collection, What We Won't Do, won the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. He lives with his wife and son in Cincinnati, Ohio.
 
Published September 2, 2008 by Algonquin Books. 335 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Crime. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England

Kirkus Reviews

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Though Sam presents himself as an eternal innocent, doing his best to put this unfortunate incident behind him, his narrative offers the perspectives of others who suggest Sam isn’t who he appears to be, and that there’s no such thing as an accident.

Sep 04 2007 | Read Full Review of An Arsonist's Guide to Writer...

The New York Times

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We all know that plenty of kids took to Route 66 after reading “On the Road,” but few juveniles committed thrill-kill murders after paging through “Crime and Punishment.” Thus Brock Clarke’s publishers apparently do not fear that his new novel, his second, will tempt some unhinged teenager to set...

Sep 23 2007 | Read Full Review of An Arsonist's Guide to Writer...

The New York Times

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The parodies here are priceless, particularly the grim, depressive, snowbound story of a lonely and miserable man, one that instantly brings to mind Russell Banks’s “Affliction.” Mr. Clarke sets this part of the book in bleakest New Hampshire, so that Sam can feel sorry for the houses for “havin...

Sep 10 2007 | Read Full Review of An Arsonist's Guide to Writer...

The Guardian

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An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop Sam Pulsifer burns down the Emil...

May 16 2009 | Read Full Review of An Arsonist's Guide to Writer...

Publishers Weekly

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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.

May 07 2007 | Read Full Review of An Arsonist's Guide to Writer...

Book Reporter

Forty-something Sam Pulsifer had succeeded in getting his life together.

Dec 22 2010 | Read Full Review of An Arsonist's Guide to Writer...

Entertainment Weekly

This absurdly hilarious mystery, An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England about a bumbler's guilt-consumed life skewers the whole memoir thing and offers a fact/fiction-blurring meditation on the risky business of self-deception: ''Sometimes the lies you tell are less frightening t...

Sep 07 2007 | Read Full Review of An Arsonist's Guide to Writer...

Pajiba

Sam’s such a fucking idiot, and he keeps fucking up and making things worse for himself.

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Bestsellersworld

And when fires are set at other New England houses which once were homes of famous writers, suspicion falls on Sam.

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Bookmarks Magazine

The Dallas Morning News opines that Brock Clarke’s attempt to pull off "whimsy, satire and black comedy" all in the same novel results in a muddle, and other critics decry it as overplotted.

Oct 05 2007 | Read Full Review of An Arsonist's Guide to Writer...

Red Room

The novel, and it is fiction, is the handiwork of novelist Brock Clarke, who sparks our interest with this incindiary first line: I, Sam Pulsifier, am the man who accidentally burned down the Emily Dickinson house in Amherst, Massachusetts, and who in the process killed two people, for which I s...

Jun 16 2008 | Read Full Review of An Arsonist's Guide to Writer...

Fiction Writers Review

This type of behavior—informally discussing books in settings seemingly created for the informal discussion of books—is something that Clarke makes fun of in the novel, but then again, he makes fun of pretty much anyone who likes books, or talks about books, or thinks they are at all important.

Jan 08 2009 | Read Full Review of An Arsonist's Guide to Writer...

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