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New Hardcover With Dust Jacket 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 Sam Pulsifer is an everyman if you consider it ordinary to accidentally burn down Emily Dickinson s house and go to prison Now released, can Sam find a new life as a husband and father while trying to prove his innocence when other writers homes start going up in smokeFear and love might leave a man complacent, but jealousy will always get him out of the vanEvery so often, a book grabs your attention with the opening sentence and holds you all the way to the last period Unfortunately, this isn t one of those books Brock Clarke s attempt at a quirky, humorous series of misfortunes simply fails to achieve the most important goal of any story making the reader care about the story An Arsonist s Guide to Writers Homes in New England is the rambling diatribe of a hapless in fact, clueless self described everyman who can t help being railroaded for crimes he didn t commit Clarke foreshadows almost everything that is going to happen to Sam Pulsifer within the first 30 pages, so there is no mystery or tension to propel the reader along There is an inevitability to everything that happens to Sam and he has no interest in even participating in his own life, blind to what is going on around him only because he has his hand over his own eyes The entire plot is such a quagmire it prevents the story from being anything other than a bore In addition to the entire story being uninteresting, the prose is grating Told from Sam s perspective, it is an annoying internal dialog where he consistently demonstrates that he is incapable of completing a full sentence without wandering off to some other topic After about two chapters of this I was not only frustrated with reading it, I didn t care about what happened to any of the characters, especially Sam Listening to him tell his story I quickly understood why he didn t have any friends and nobody wanted to talk to him about anything Even Sam is uninterested in himself, which leaves anyone reading his story wondering why we should be interested in him either.I m not sure if Clarke was attempting to paint a picture of what it is like inside the mind of a hopeless victim of life But whether it was or not, An Arsonist s Guide to Writers Homes in New England really missed the mark and only succeeded in making me wish I had purchased something else to read. I really wanted to love this book I couldn t tell you why, but I wanted this one to be a triumph.But, considering it took countless small bursts of very reluctant reading over the course of the entire fall to get through it, I have to classify this one as a total bust Evendisappointing still is that I don t even have a great reason other than to say that it was just bad The first and foremost problem here is that the narrator is a total disaster Sam is a convicted arsonist who, through some stroke of luck, has managed to create a decent life for himself prior to the start of the book Before the first five pages are up, you can tell that Sam is whining, snively, spineless, and very much a bore But, something happens, and as the book progresses and he lets his world spin out of control, it comes to the point where you realize that if you didn t care so little about his life and the book , you d want to punch him The plot is also implausible full of stock characters whose predictable actions drive the story to an ending you definitely could expect Everything just seemed too forced to be creative or interesting, yet not forced enough to the point where the campiness could ve been entertaining in and of itself I kept hoping that Clarke had some sort of gimmick lying in wait, ready to satisfy readers who put up with the novel but no, nothing Wouldn t it have spiced things up if at the very end, you had found out that this was all a dream Or maybe a paranoid rant from the looney bin I am having a great deal of trouble understanding why this has managed to get so much intelligista acclaim, while being panned consistently by regular readers Did the critics really get through the whole mess I ll give this doozy one star, for being able to pull the wool over their eyes and, okay, fine, because the book jacket is clever. You know, I really considered giving up on this about sixty pages in, and I probably should have it never got any better It was just so un compelling And the main character was really unlikeable, which drives me nuts It reminded me of A Confederacy of Dunces, which I don t remember much but definitely remember hating this had the same kind of bumbling, not very smart protagonist who just doesn t seem to get why bad things keep happening to him He was so whiny and stupid and boring Why should I go on a three hundred page journey with someone I can t stand The other thing that drove me absolutely crazy about this book was that the narrative kept doubling over on itself, like in the middle of describing some kind of action or reaction, it would start to discuss broader ideas and concepts, like For those of us who ve lost it, love is also the thing that makes us speak in aphorisms about love, which is why we try to get love back, so we can stop speaking that way Aphoristically, that is What That s both convoluted and incredibly insipid There were all these realizations or like comments on the human condition or something, which were uninspired and uninteresting and really just served to distract me from the uninspired and uninteresting plot It reminded me, strangely, of one of my most favorite books ever, Daniel Handler sAdverbs , where he does a similar kind of thing, but with achingly beautiful metaphors, and with ideas that are thrilling and original and wonderful and sad Brock Clarke is no Daniel Handler, is what I m trying to say And speaking of the writing Ugh Here is a convolutedly stupid metaphor, which happens right after our, uh, hero has relieved himself after needing to pee for a long time, and someone has just told him that he doesn t have any money Says our hero I empathized his lack of money weighed heavily on him and he needed relief from it, his poverty being to his vessel what my pee had just been to mine Ew Idiotic.Here s onequote, which combines bad writing with bad allusions with bad ideas I know nothing about her, not even her name, although I think about her all the time, the way you do about people and things which change your life forever although I doubt she thinks about me, which is the way life works, which is why I m sure Noah couldn t ever stop thinking about his Flood, but once the water receded, I m sure it didn t once think about him WhatMonumentally stupid Just like this whole monumentally stupid book. 1.5 starsWhat an incendiary turd this wasThis seemedthe output from a sadistic creative writing class assignment, requiring Its MFA hopefuls to build a novel around a computerized random idea generated premise, than anything Brock Clarke could ve dreamed up I absolutely loved his novelExley, but this one, AAGTWHINE , was much too convoluted, even for my predilection for quirky fiction.