As a teenager, Sam Pulsifer's accidentally torches an American landmark, and killed two people in the blaze. After ten years in prison, he thinks he has put his past behind him - but when the homes of Robert Frost, Edith Wharton, Herman Melville, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and even a replica of Henry David Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond, go up in smoke, Sam becomes the number one suspect.
As a teenager, it was never Sam Pulsifer's intention to torch an American landmark, and he certainly never planned to kill two people in the blaze. To this day, he still wonders why that young couple was upstairs in bed in the Emily Dickinson House after hours.
After serving ten years in prison for his crime, Sam is determined to put the past behind him. He finishes college, begins a career, falls in love, gets married, has two adorable kids, and buys a home. His low-profile life is chugging along quite nicely until the past comes crashing through his front door.
As the homes of Robert Frost, Edith Wharton, Herman Melville, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and even a replica of Henry David Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond, go up in smoke, Sam becomes the number one suspect. Finding the real culprit is the only way to clear his namebut sometimes there's a terrible price to pay for the truth.
An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England is a tour de forcea novel disguised as a memoir, a mystery that cloaks itself in humor, and an artful piece of literature that bites the hand that breeds it.
I, Sam Pulsifer, 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 spent ten years in prison and, as letters from scholars of American literature tell me, for which I will continue to pay a high price long into the not-so-sweet hereafter. This story is locally well known, and so I won't go into it here. 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.
So anyway, I served my time, and since the sentencing judge took mercy on me, I served my time at the minimum-security prison up at Holyoke. At Holyoke there were bond analysts and lawyers and day traders and city managers and school administrators, all of them caught with their hands in the till and nothing at all like me, an eighteen-year-old accidental arsonist and ...
Brock Clarke manages to skewer pretty much every literary pretension there is, and any number of cultural mores, but his satire does not so much bite as gently gum its victims - Clarke is not an outsider laughing at the literary world, but an insider sharing its jokes.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (750 words).
Brock Clarke is the author of three previous books: The Ordinary White Boy (2001) and two story collections: What We Won't Do (2002), which won the 2000 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction; and Carrying The Torch (2005). His stories and essays have appeared in many places including Virginia Quarterly Review, OneStory, the Believer, the Georgia Review, and the Southern Review. He has received awards from the Sewanee Writers' Conference, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and others. He lives in ...
If you liked An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England, try these:
A Fraction of the Whole is an uproarious indictment of the modern world and its mores - a rollicking rollercoaster ride from obscurity to infamy, and the moving, memorable story of a father and son whose spiritual symmetry transcends all their many shortcomings.
On an ordinary day, Edwards world is turned upside down when he stumbles across a crate of family papers. To his horror, he discovers that nine previous generations of his family have come to sticky ends because of their noses. When he investigates---despite his grandfathers caveat never to look into the origin of his nose---Edward ...
Become a Member
and discover your next great read!
The low brow and the high brow
Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!
The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes
Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.
Your guide toexceptional books
BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.