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An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England

Average Rating 3.5
( 26 )
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(7)

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(7)

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(4)

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(2)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

A Truly Great American Novel

It's interesting--one of the customer reviews on Barnes & Noble's site complained that while they were drawn into the novel and enjoyed the story, they disliked the characters, and particularly protagonist Sam Pulsifer. That was one of the great draws for me. Like David...
It's interesting--one of the customer reviews on Barnes & Noble's site complained that while they were drawn into the novel and enjoyed the story, they disliked the characters, and particularly protagonist Sam Pulsifer. That was one of the great draws for me. Like David Lapham's "Young Liars" series of graphic novels, toying with the notion that the narrator is bad, unlikable, unreliable, and possibly lying through his teeth is one of my favorite elements of the story. To be honest, there is a point early in AN ARSONIST'S GUIDE where Pulsifer is explaining for the reader--without rationalization or justification, simply trying to put the reader in his headspace--why it is that he'd lied to the people he loved for years, and then continued to lie and pile lies on top of lies until they simply couldn't trust him anymore. His reasoning--while flawed beyond belief--is the same I've found myself applying in the past when acting in just such a way. This book holds up a mirror to my least favorite aspect of myself, my past, my personal humiliations and my insecurities. Pulsifer is a character I don't particularly like--but I relate to him on a very personal level. And honestly, that's what a lot of the novel is about. Pulsifer, as well as a number of the characters he interacts with, have literary characters just like that. He, his mother, the folks who write him to ask for help--they all have characters they see themselves in, or that they want to avoid becoming, or that they can't escape from. It's this reality, whether you like the characters or not, that really makes the novel pop. Not to mention, of course, the cleverly flippant language, the engaging plot, the constant hope that things will turn around and the way that, like most great mysteries, something that's clearly not right at the start pays off down the road--not in the way you'd expect.

posted by RussBurlingame on July 10, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

If you want to start a fire, burn this book

The book was not totally horrible but I just wanted it over. The main character is an idiot that just plays the victim and resigns himself to that. There's no climax, no epiphany. You keep waiting the whole time for him to actually DO something. I won't be rushing t...
The book was not totally horrible but I just wanted it over. The main character is an idiot that just plays the victim and resigns himself to that. There's no climax, no epiphany. You keep waiting the whole time for him to actually DO something. I won't be rushing to read anything else from this writer. Definitely disappointing.

posted by Anonymous on March 3, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2012

    If you want to start a fire, burn this book

    The book was not totally horrible but I just wanted it over. The main character is an idiot that just plays the victim and resigns himself to that. There's no climax, no epiphany. You keep waiting the whole time for him to actually DO something. I won't be rushing to read anything else from this writer. Definitely disappointing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 3, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A bit of a let down

    I was really looking forward to reading this book, but after the first few chapters I found it rather boring and very predictable. The characters were all a bit sad and passive, and I couldn't really relate or sympathize with them.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2007

    A reviewer

    For about two chapters, I was really enjoying this book. The main character/narrator, Sam, has a wry outlook on life. But as the book progressed, I came to really dislike him. So passive about his situation, I wanted to reach through the pages and shake him. This 'guide' did teach me one thing, however, to be a little more discriminating about which hardcover books I spend my money on.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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