‘Arsonist’s Guide’ author Brock Clarke to speak for Writing Program

Novelist Brock Clarke, Ph.D., author of “An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England” (2007), will read from his work at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, for the Writing Program in Arts & Sciences.

Brock Clarke

“An Arsonist’s Guide” tells the darkly comic story of Sam Pulsifer, a literary bumbler who, at the age of 18, accidentally burns down the Emily Dickinson House in Amherst, Mass. Released after 10 years in prison, Sam tries to put the past behind him but soon finds himself the No. 1 suspect as the homes of Robert Frost, Edith Wharton, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne go up in smoke.

” ‘An Arsonist’s Guide’ contains sentences and images that could stand beside the works of the former owners of the literary residences put to flame,” noted The New York Times. “There is a single sentence of dialogue that … will paralyze any Willa Cather scholar. There is a lone paragraph describing a woman’s head aflame … that could compel Stephen King to increase the fire insurance on his own New England house. Hell, Clarke himself had better buy a fire extinguisher or two from Home Depot. Who knows how many crazy firebug readers this book will goad?”

Clarke also is the author of the novel “The Ordinary White Boy” (2001), as well as two short story collections, “What We Won’t Do” (2002) and “Carrying the Torch” (2005).

His work has appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, One Story, the Believer, the Georgia Review and the Southern Review; in the Pushcart Prize and New Stories from the South anthologies; and on NPR’s Selected Shorts.

A 2000 winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, Clarke has twice been a finalist for a National Magazine Award in Fiction. Other honors include awards from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the New York State Writers’ Institute.

A native of upstate New York, Clarke earned his doctorate in English from the University of Rochester. He teaches creative writing at the University of Cincinnati.

The talk, part of The Writing Program’s fall Reading Series, is free and open to the public and takes place in Duncker Hall, Room 201, Hurst Lounge. For more information, call 935-7130 or e-mail dschuman@wustl.edu.