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An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England (Anglais) Broché – 1 mai 2008

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

"As cheerfully oddball as its title...The parodies here are priceless...Sharp-edged and unpredictable, punctuated by moments of choice absurdist humour." (New York Times)

"A sharp new novel that reads like a memoir, a scathing satire that reminds us of the horror of truth-telling...A crisp story that moves along like a detective novel. But what makes it come alive is Clarke's sharp wit." (San Francisco Chronicle) --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Présentation de l'éditeur

Sam Pulsifer has come to the end of a very long and unusual journey. He spent ten years in prison for accidentally burning down poet Emily Dickinson's house - and unwittingly killing two people in the process. He emerged aged twenty-eight and set about creating a new life for himself. He went to college, found love, got married, fathered two children, and made a new start - and then watched in almost-silent awe as the vengeful past caught up with him, right at his own front door.

As, one by one, the homes of other famous New England writers are torched, Sam knows that this time he is most certainly not guilty. To prove his innocence, he sets out to uncover the identity of this literary-minded arsonist. What he discovers, and how he deals with the reality of his discoveries, is both hilariously funny and heartbreakingly sad.

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England is a novel disguised as a memoir; a heartbreaking story about truth and honesty and the damage they do.

--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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Amazon.com: 121 commentaires
34 internautes sur 42 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
How one event can change many lives 10 septembre 2007
Par Corinne H. Smith - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Sam Pulsifer is a bumbler. And in true bumbler fashion, he doesn't know he *is* one until he meets white-collar criminals in prison who scoff at such individuals. Sam is an innocent soul: a blissfully naïve young man who accidentally starts a fire in an historic house and accidentally kills a married couple secretly meeting inside it. This is his story, which he begins for us after his 10-year incarceration and the resumption of his life. The narrative is conveyed in first person by Sam himself, written at a time in the future when hindsight is 20/20 and he can keep us interested by providing forecasts in regular asides: "This turned out, much later, to be something of a mistake on my part, but how was I to know that at the time? How are we supposed to recognize our mistakes before they become mistakes? Where is the book that can teach us *that*?"

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. Unlike other reviewers, I found Sam to be a likable character. His stream of consciousness over-analysis of every encounter is the kind of thing that really *does* buzz through our minds; we just don't write it all down like he did. And if we took the time to record it, it would sound just as immature and surreal and ridiculous as what we read in these pages.

Author Brock Clarke is obviously familiar enough with the region (Amherst, the Pioneer Valley, the greater Springfield area) that he can portray it realistically and poke subdued fun at it at the same time. Local readers will laugh out loud more than once. At least *I* did.

A glance at the book title will no doubt panic every director of every historic home across the country. "Yikes! Why would he write this kind of thing and put this terrible idea into people's heads?" they might lament. Well, just as most mystery readers don't run right out and commit murder, most readers of AN ARSONIST'S GUIDE won't be inclined to torch the nearest entry on the National Register of Historic Places. And even so: I can't think of another title that would be appropriate for this book. An enjoyable memoir of a fictitious character who deserves better than his due.
23 internautes sur 28 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Complex Sentences, Mystery, Coming of Age, and Musings on Life 25 septembre 2007
Par S. J. Hall - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Think a mini version of Marisha's Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and you'll understand the world that awaits you in Clarke's book. Like Pessl's novel, Clarke's novel has an intellectually sophisticated narrator, who utilizes a wealth of complexly constructed sentences to tell his multilayered tale of coming of age and attempts to solve two mysteries, and who has interwoven all throughout the text countless observations and aphorisms about life.

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.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Great fun for a family tragedy 30 septembre 2008
Par Seven Kitties - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
In the interests of full disclosure: Brock Clarke is the brother of one of my coworkers and he came to present at our fledgling Creative Writing conference out of fraternal affection and perhaps a free (steamtabled) dinner. Thus, to counter the really base ad hominem attacks appearing in these reviews, my impression of Brock Clarke, Human Being, is quite menschy.

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. However, it is worth your time if you want to get into a real 'everyman' (who isn't, or doesn't at least feel himself or herself to be a bumbler at times?) and ask questions about love and family and above all, what's the point of books, of stories? Do we read to become like the characters we read about? Do we read to escape? What are books, what are *writers* supposed to do for us, anyway? And you meet some pretty outrageous unforgettable characters (like the bond analysts) along the way.

Maybe Clarke's done himself a bad turn in writing 'niche fiction' that appeals to overeducated twits like myself. It seems that many reviewers would prefer if he wrote Oprah niche fiction. I'm glad he didn't. It's about time I got to laugh at myself and wonder exactly why do I do what I do with all these books...? Seems that the people who enjoy this book are the ones it's making fun of. I don't know what to say about the people who hate this book so much I fear some arson might be practiced at Mr. Clarke's home.....
28 internautes sur 36 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
`Can a story be good only if it produces an effect?' 21 juin 2008
Par Jennifer Cameron-Smith - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This question is quoted from a scene within the novel itself. This story certainly produces an effect on me, but the effect it produces is not one that I consider to be `good'. It is undoubtedly well-written but it is infuriating. Most of the characters are either incomplete or utterly inadequate. That could be okay: there is a rich subterranean vein of satire flowing just below the surface and just one reliable viewpoint would be enough to make this work for me.

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.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
13 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
"What lie could I tell that would sound less like a lie than the truth?" 27 août 2007
Par Mary Whipple - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
(3.5 stars) The guilt of Sam Pulsifer, who describes himself as "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," permeates this memoir of a lost life. Now in his late thirties, he is the happily married father of two children, a man who managed to graduate from college and get a terrific job as a packaging engineer. All is going well--until Thomas Coleman, the son of the couple who died in the Emily Dickinson House fire, about twenty years ago, appears on his doorstep. Coleman promises Sam that he will continue to pay for his crime in ways he never dreamed of.

Sam has never told his wife Anne Marie about his past, and she has no suspicions at all about his missing ten years, but before long, Sam is locked out of his house and living with his parents, and Thomas Coleman's car is parked in her driveway. Soon the homes of other writers--Edward Bellamy, Mark Twain, and Robert Frost--are torched. The police, of course, gravitate to Sam's door. As the crimes increase, Sam's domestic life---with his father, mother, and Anne Marie--becomes even more convoluted.

Author Brock Clarke does a masterful job of creating a breezy, conversational point of view, and his dialogue is natural and often filled with dark humor. As the crimes become more numerous, Clarke ratchets up both the suspense and the number of suspicious characters, leaving the reader hard-pressed to figure out how Sam will ever surmount his increasingly formidable challenges. As the cast of outrageous characters grows, Clarke keeps the humor high, and his use of absurdist details, wild scenes, and in-jokes about writers and their work keep the reader amused.

Though the novel is fun to read, it requires more than the usual amount of "willing suspension of disbelief." After ten years in prison, Sam is still a complete innocent about life, and his compulsion to lie, over and over again, makes him a protagonist with whom many readers will fail to identify. The fact that his wife has never been mildly curious about his ten "lost" years, about his education, or about his lack of long-time friends strains credulity, and the lives of his parents and the people he meets are so off-the-wall that any pretense of reality disappears.

The novel, however, requires a certain amount of reality to give the humor some context, and the reader must be able empathize with Sam in order to have the ending make sense and provide resolution. Filled with wacky scenes and oddball characters, the novel will amuse many readers, while its lack of subtlety will leave others asking "Is that all there is?" n Mary Whipple
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