Synopses & Reviews
Sam Pulsifer, the hapless hero of this incendiary novel has come to the end of a very long and unusual journey, and for the second time in is life he has the time to think about all the things that have and have not come to pass.
The truth is, a lot of remarkable things have happened in Sam's life. 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 at age twenty-eight and set about creating a new life—almost a new identity—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 he is most certainly not the guilty one. 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. For, as Sam learns, the truth has a way of eluding capture, and then, when you finally get close enough to embrace it, it turns and kicks you in the ass.
In the league of such contemporary classics as A Confederacy of Dunces, Catch-22, Little Big Man, and The World According to Garp, An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England is an original and exciting work - a novel disguised as a memoir; a mystery that cloaks itself in humor; an artful piece of literature that bites the hand that breeds it. A heartbreaking story about truth and honesty and the damage they do, it's above all a massive piece of entertainment that will make you think and make you care.
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 fifinishes college, begins a career, falls in love, gets married, has two adorable kids, and buys a home. His low-profifile 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 name--but 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 force--a 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.
A lot of remarkable things have happened to Sam Pulsifer, beginning with the ten years he spent in prison for accidentally burning down Emily Dickinson's house and unwittingly killing two people. Emerging at the age of twenty-eight, he creates a new life as a husband and father. But when the homes of other famous writers go up in smoke, he must prove his innocence by uncovering the identity of this literary-minded arsonist.
About the Author
Brock Clarke is the author of three previous books: The Ordinary White Boyand two story collections. His stories and essays have appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, OneStory, the Believer, the Georgia Review, and the Southern Reviewand have appeared in the annual Pushcart Prize and New Stories from the Southanthologies and on NPR's Selected Shorts. He lives in Cincinnati and teaches creative writing at the University of Cincinnati.