Brock Clarke

Books Reviews
Share Tweet Submit Pin
Brock Clarke

Writers? Who can match ’em?

Brock Clarke flames entire genres of fiction in this clever and often hilarious tale of accidental arsonist Sam Pulsifer. As a youngster, Sam mistakenly lights up Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst, cremating a nice couple asleep upstairs. After a 10-year hitch in prison for the misdeed, Sam settles into mundane suburban life, hiding his smoldering past from wife, kids and community. The smokescreen ends when the orphaned son of the burned couple appears, threatening to reveal Sam’s secret. When other writers’ houses mysteriously go up in ?ames—those of Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Robert Frost and others—Sam becomes both sleuth and suspect.

It’s an unlikely link, but Pulsifer shares more than a little of the ?ctional genome of Ignatius J. Reilly, the antihero of John Kennedy Toole’s classic A Confederacy of Dunces. Both characters are hapless, if well-meaning, bumblers, unsuited—even with the warmest hearts—for our cold, cruel world.