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Music for Torching

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  2,410 ratings  ·  265 reviews
Paul and Elaine have two boys and a beautiful home, yet they find themselves thoroughly, inexplicably stuck. Obsessed with 'making things good again', they spin the quiet terrors of family life into a fantastical frenzy that careens well and truly out of control. As A. M. Homes's incendiary novel unfolds, the Kodacolor hues of the American good life become nearly hallucino ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 5th 2000 by Harper Perennial (first published 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
Tammy
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
...more
Mulligan
Aug 24, 2008 Mulligan rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
...more
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
Sarah
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.
M
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
...more
Edmole
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
Cynthia
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
...more
Theacrob
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.
Anna
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.
Renee
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
...more
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. Certa
...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
Heather
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
...more
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 http://www.book
...more
Ubiqua
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
Beverly
A story about a typical suburban couple going quietly insane who end up setting their house on fire. The idea here is "looks good on the surface/going mad underneath" all to satirical effect. This very idea is a cliche. The book is cynical and unpleasant. DOes it escape the banality of so much contemporary fiction by women? Superficially, yes, but does it really? Not sure.
Jjudyfl
Paul and Elaine are bored. Bored, as in 'hey - let's - burn - our - house - down' bored.
Only a part of the house is harmed and their insurance pays their outdoor-grill-plus-lighter-fluid accident claim.
This strange married couple and their two children begin a tangled string of risks; such as sex with old friends, and new ones. The children are getting weird. (or weirder)
This is a highly readable story of a marriage in disarray, maybe in an 'off-tract' subdivision near you...
ANY A. M. Home
...more
The Crimson Fucker
Nov 25, 2008 The Crimson Fucker rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to The Crimson Fucker by: Mr. Greg
Second femme to get a 5… and since I don’t want to make a habit of this the next time I decide to read a book authored by a femme… I’ma go with Martha Stewart...
Brian
Lightning fast pacing. Funny and terrifying. Not for children.
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
...more
Anna
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
William
I started reading this for my book club, then about halfway through found out that I should have been reading May We be Forgiven instead, so I read that and then came back to finish Music For Torching afterwards. I can now say I have a more rounded feel for A. M. Homes' writing, but to be honest I didn't like either of them.

For me, Music For Torching was the better written, as there is at least some pace, wit and style in place of May We Be Forgiven's drifting structure and endless listing of d
...more
Crckt
Yet another in a long in a long, growing tradition of (post?)modern fiction in which suburban, privileged white people must deal with the crushing weight of being suburban, privileged white people. The story revolves around a couple at their wits' end, trying to cope with the emptiness they feel towards, each other, their family, their friends and essentially their very beings. In their desperation to feel, and to come together, they attempt to torch their home. The book follows the period of ti ...more
Simay Yildiz
http://zimlicious.blogspot.com/
In addition to being a master of her craft, A.M. Homes always manages to shock me. In Music for Torching, she takes a regular, married suburban couple with two kids, puts them in unusual yet believable situations, takes your hand and walks you through it.


If you've read Homes's story collection Safety of Objects, you'll remember the main characters Paul and Elaine. They used to be in love but now they're just annoying hell out of one another, they wanted to have eve
...more
Simone Subliminalpop
Una famiglia che non riesce a sistemare la propria vita, ma nemmeno a decidere di darci un taglio, e allora cerca di dare fuoco deliberatamente alla propria casa, fallendo miseramente anche in quello e trovandosi così ad affrontare ancora più da vicino le ceneri dei propri inutili sforzi, finendo in una spirale di follia sempre più claustrofobica.
Un classica famiglia borghese americana e tante altre per vicini o amici, a distanza di giardino curato e barbecue rigorosamente di serie, tra le quali
...more
Julie
I find A.M. Homes' writing style very funny as opposed to annoying, which is my impression of most books I've read set in the suburbs with ANGST as their theme. Nothing in here approaches the sublime level of comedy found in "Adults Alone," where Paul and Elaine also appear, with the exception of maybe the first chapter, when they impulsively try (and somewhat succeed) to burn down their own house by kicking over the BBQ grill. I liked the "Nazi drunk" neighbor (as described by another character ...more
Cashman
Jul 12, 2008 Cashman rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
...more
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ending 1 10 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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