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Music for Torching

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  2,667 ratings  ·  290 reviews
In Music for Torching, the controversial author of The End of Alice lays bare the foundations of marriage and family life at the end of the century. Flash-frozen in the anxious culture of a suburban subdivision, Paul and Elaine (the couple first featured in Homes's collection of stories The Safety of Objects) have two boys and a beautiful home, yet they find themselves tho ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published April 21st 1999 by William Morrow (first published 1998)
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My second shot with A.M. Homes' brand of familial dysfunction was much better than my first (the decidedly one-note short story collection Things You Should Know). This one, a particulary more ferocious novel Music for Torching is, at its finer moments, as good as anything written by a few of her East Coast-based Pulitzer-winning kings of dysfunction fiction predecessors (John Updike and John Cheever immediately come to mind), though refreshingly with a female-centric perspective. While I gene ...more
Makenzie Schultz
I'm really torn in my opinion of this book. As more time goes by since I've finished it, as I think about it more, I like it better than I did when I had first finished it. When I first finished this book I was absolutely shocked by the outcome, I put the book down and was incredibly confused, and really upset. But I knew that I didn't dislike the book, I hadn't been able to put it down. A.M. Homes' style of writing is mesmerizing, and the characters are all just so terrible and so lifelike in t ...more
Aug 24, 2008 Mulligan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those wary of the "American Dream"

Delightfully devastating. With this book, A.M. Homes paints a haunting picture of suburbia. The main characters, Paul and Elaine, have managed to keep up with the Joneses in their seemingly perfect suburban town, but their lovely house, friendly neighbors and two boys have left them with a life filled with boredom and despair. They want to make things good again in their lives, yet are caught in a shame spiral that begins with a failed attempt to burn down their house and ends with a hostage sit
It was very difficult for me to assign a rating to this book.

On one hand - it is very well written. That is usually enough to earn 4 stars from me. I do love a well-turned phrase.

On the other hand - it was very difficult to read. The characters - straight across the board - are very unlikeable. It was hard for me to care about what happened to them. To make matters worse, every now and then I would see a little glimpse of myself or of other people I love. Never enough to make me think that I - o
Just started. Not sure if it's great literature or total crap.

Update. Total crap CONFIRMED.

This book is desperate to be Delillo's White Noise, but it fails with such misery that I'm surprised I haven't gouged out my eyes and accidently had lesibian intercourse. Not necessarily in that order.

Take my advise and read White Noise if you are looking for modern Americana.
Sarah Smith
OH MY GOD is exactly what I said to my empty living room when I finished reading this novel by A.M. Homes. After Revolutionary Road and Little Children this is the third successive novel i've read dealing with suburban life in America. Paul and Elaine this time are the unhappy couple and a little bit crazy, certainly depressed, completely selfish, mostly unlikeable and somehow and i've no idea how but Homes makes you care about these two strangely believable characters. The story starts when the ...more
Nico Blackheart
I saw this book on a recommendation list and figured I would give it a try since I like quirky dark humor in the spirit of Running With Scissors. Homes' style is dry, witty, and leaves nothing to the imagination. Where most other authors in this genre of starkly depressing humor use flowery language to skirt around the issues presented, Homes uses very simple English to get her points across, and most of the time it makes for a refreshingly human read with minimal pretense. Despite the fact that ...more
I'm only saying this was 'okay' because the book was well written and there were the odd amusing moments. I didn't enjoy the story; it was basically a series of "poor me" moments that culminated in an event that I thought was awful and unnecessary. I didn't enjoy the characters, again because they were all so pre-occupied with feeling sorry for themselves, despite their largely cushy lives. The characters are awful to themselves and to each other.

I realise that this is the point of the book - t
I hated this book and everyone in it. If it wasn't for a class I wouldn't have finished it. When I was done reading it I literally threw it at the wall. I will never be able to hurt that book the way it hurt me.
I can't in good conscience give this fewer than three stars, because it held my attention, was at times strikingly funny and/or insightful, and was a definite show of talent - but so many times I wanted to throw it across the room and/or give it one star, so, I am settling for three with misgivings.

Let's start by saying that I am a realist. I like my fiction as unfictiony as possible. What I can't handle is fiction via fun house mirrors, ie, scenarios and people so outlandish they cannot be real
I have been rewatching the Sopranos from the start. Like the Sopranos, this is a study of selfish kids of baby boomers who have themselves had kids who are now caught in the maelstrom of their indulgent selfishness. AM Homes first novel, Jack, is dark but hopeful, as are her last two, May We Be Forgiven and This Book Will Save Your Life. But there's no hope in this book. These are people who have everything they need and do most of what they want and don't enjoy it and don't know what to do with ...more
Robin Umbley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Three thoughts:
1. How do these people have so much sex?
2. The feeling of ennui, and floating through your life--well, I only wish AM Homes could have given a way of fixing it, instead of just capturing it so well.
3. *Do Not Read* if you are thinking about pursuing the stereotypical suburban lifestyle...and have an inkling of a reservation about it.
Katie Mansfield
I'm speechless. The ending... WHAT?! I loved the book almost the entire way through. A.M. Homes has a writing style I really appreciate and enjoy. But the ending! How could she do that? I can't decide if I want to cry or burn my book in the Weiss Family barbeque.
Polly James
I have NO idea what rating to give this book. On the one hand, it's beautifully written, in A M Homes' characteristically-introspective tone, (and with her trademark flashes of black humour) but on the other, it's probably the most depressing book I've ever read – and so I hated it.

I've loved most of A M Homes' other books, especially "May We Be Forgiven" and "This Book Will Save Your Life", but while both the latter and "Music for Torching" could be said to carry the same overall message about
Sadly, this book was gravely under-whelming. I expected more from the brilliant mind that produced The End Of Alice. Then again, maybe one cannot live up to such a book?

This was like American Beauty (the movie) on crack. Everything was haphazard, random, dysfunctional - are people really like this? The ending was completely unexpected, although, when I think about it... the only ending I could really see was some type of destruction.

What was the point of this book? What did I come away with? An
Russell George
Russell is writing this review. He has eaten tuna, which he marinated using too much ginger, and is wondering why the dentist mumbled at him today. OK, so the dentist was wearing a mask, but it was rude. It cost 50, which made it ruder. He is thinking about the dentist, and the 50 he exchanged for a more thorough than usual teeth cleaning.

This is how A. M. Homes writes, an urgent first person prose that seeks, and at times succeeds, in making a suburban landscape seem dramatically vivid. Certain
Jul 12, 2008 Cashman rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cashman by: Anne
In Thoreau's day, people led lives of quiet desperation. There is nothing quiet here.

(p. 93)
"Should I call what's-her-name?" Elaine turns to Sammy. "What's Nate's mother's name?"
"Mom?" Sammy says.
Daniel hits him. "Butt plug."
"Help me, what's her name?" Elaine asks Paul.

Nope, nothing quiet here.

(p. 189) Paul notices that the color of her eye shadow is Fiction, her lipstick is called Sheer Fraud.

(p. 195) "'If nothing else, it seems like the one thing we do well—we fight and we c**k. That's how we
A.M. Homes writes from what I call a Suburban Surrealist bent. That is, what could sort-of, possibly happen in real life, but usually doesn't, and is weird, and wacky, and well, fascinating.

A.M. Homes is fabulous at creating a doll's house view of a nuclear family, and then dissecting the family from the inside out -- thoughts, feelings, and processes. Music for Torching is a bird's eye view of the couple, Paul and Elaine who smoke crack in their living room out of boredom. This couple was seen
I read this book because I have friends who recommend it. Unfortunately, I can't share their enthusiasm. Beside the characters seeming no more than paper charactures, and all-too trendy ones at that, I could find no purpose to making art of their lives. It's not as if the ennui and hypocrisy of the suburban middleclass hasn't been written about before. If this book appeared in the 1960s, I could understand all the accolades it's received. (Who can forget Charles Webb's searing portrayal of the p ...more
Wow. Nothing good in this book. Not a single uplifting moment, not a single likeable character, just angst, discontent, boredom and horror. I feel like this book has been done in many different versions through the years, and this was a crasser way of portraying the line from The Civil Wars, "I don't love you, but I always will." It's a man and wife, bored with themselves, bored with each other, bored with life and all the horrible ways they try to deal with it. I was okay with the book until th ...more
More often than not, I always come away from an A.M Homes novel absolutely despising the main protagonists and generally find myself unable to dredge up much in the way of sympathy for them.

Music for Torching was no different in this regard. There was many a time the shenanigans of the main characters, Elaine and Paul had me sneering and rolling my eyes at the text. I suppose then it's a testament to Homes' writing that she could create a compelling enough tale to keep me reading to the end.

The worst book ending I have encountered in a long time. I threw the book across the room in rage, I could not believe she would finish like that, switching genres and turning it into the tragedy of a child. She does have a very interesting style, as a writer, and is very good with characters and dialogues. But this novel is in some ways still so stuck in certain suburbia clichés that reading it was like reading a novel on the 1950s, only with people having cell phones. Sure, some suburbs are st ...more
One of the worst books I've ever read. If a book could be written in a minor key, this would be the result. This could be beautiful, but there's no character development, the editing is disappointing with inconsistent details all over the place, and the ending? The ending is ridiculous - it's as if the author came up against deadline and needed to end it. I wish I would have bailed on this book in the first chapter, like I'd originally wanted.

Don't pick up this book unless you intend on investing the entire day to it. Pick a comfy chair at the coffee shop, buy a large coffee and a muffin, and dig in.

Homes is the kind of author that is not afraid to show us how ugly people can be. This book is no exception. The characters are so desperate to make things right, to make things normal and functional, that it takes a complete tragedy to push them into doing something about it that isn't covering it up.

It isn't hard to see yourself, your
the first chapter was fantastic--barely but believable. a suburban marriage horrow show. brave writing, surprised itself where it landed.
...and then, for the rest of the book, nothing else really holds up to that first premise. incredible (as in: unbelievable) plot devices arise regularly to keep things moving--an affair, an in-law, a sadist, another affair, another sadist--and this culimnates in an ending that manipulates frantically but unconvincingly, that falls flat as it tries to explode.
Mike Polizzi
(2.5) Today's suburban dweller is a different type of beast. One can read Homes' account of the Weiss family and find the heartbreaks and frustrations rendered by Cheever, Updike and Yates ghosted over with a dash of Delillo. The characters totter on the edge of chaos. An apt portrait of the thrill seeking, self gratifying set. Written in clean and crisp sentences with episodic momentum, the novel has the feeling of a vaguely entertaining TV show: distanced, cool, impeccable. No place for traged ...more
Nina-Marie Gardner
I loved the short story Adults Alone from The Safety of Objects that featured the two main characters of this novel. And I love AM Homes. But initially I had to push myself to keep going with this - at the same time I savored its parts and the language, it never quite gained the momentum I was hoping for. That said, the characters and many of the scenes will stay with me, especially these next few days. Which is always good:-)

(and cool related interview with her over at bookslut
Incubo middle class della suburbia nord-americana, Musica per un incendio parla della cupa infelicità di una coppia di quarantenni. Elaine e Paul vivono e si combattono stremati dal reciproco malanimo, e la loro villetta a schiera ornata da un canonico praticello è il palcoscenico di un fallimento esistenziale senza vie di scampo; decidono quindi di dare fuoco alla casa. Il gesto rivoluzionario rimane parzialmente incompiuto, ponendo i due in un limbo di appartenenza/non appartenenza alla tribù ...more
I had to force myself to finish this almost plot-less book. There is no clear sense of time- for all those affairs and drama to happen in the span of one week, I mean really?! Everything was just so unexpected and crazy that eventually crazy became normal.

And it's disturbing on so many levels, though I'm sure it somewhat reflects the problems of suburban Americans and the flaws of the American Dream.

The only character that I genuinely cared for is the one that Homes killed.
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ending 1 11 Nov 15, 2013 08:39AM  
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A.M. Homes (first name Amy) is the author of the novels, This Book Will Save Your Life, Music For Torching, The End of Alice, In a Country of Mothers, and Jack, as well as the short-story collections, Things You Should Know and The Safety of Objects, the travel memoir, Los Angeles: People, Places and The Castle on the Hill, and the artist's book Appendix A: An Elaboration on the Novel the End of A ...more
More about A.M. Homes...
May We Be Forgiven This Book Will Save Your Life The End of Alice The Safety of Objects The Mistress's Daughter

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“What does ‘stuck’ mean?” “It means I should make some big decision, I should do some enormous thing. And I can’t do anything. I can’t stand my life, and I can’t change it.” “Maybe it’s not an enormous thing,” he says. “Maybe you have to do one small thing and then another small thing.” 1 likes
“You are your own beginning. Every day, every hour, every minute, you start again. There is no point wishing you were someone else, you are who you are—start there.” 0 likes
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