An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke was my choice for the "place" selection in the What's In A Name? Challenge
I read a review who noted thsi book was “interesting and frustrating”, which sums this book up perfectly. This is a classic case of "don't judge a book by its cover"- from the title, description and even cover I thought this would be a darkly funny novel, which in fact in contains very, very little humor at all. We basically spend our entire time in the head of a character who doesn't learn most of the time, and the few times he does he doesn't apply the knowledge to anything. Paraphrasing many of his thoughts/actions through the books basically comes up with "Somewhere inside me I knew I should do this or anyone else in my shoes would do this, but I just couldn't." He's not only passive to an unbelievable degree- the way he constantly and knowingly puts himself in the wrong place at the wrong time is almost fetish-like.
There's a scene in the book where our "hero" stands up and recounts his story to a roomful of writers as a fictional story idea. When he's done, the writer on the platform tells him it doesn't work, that the character's dumb decisions that propel his narrative is simply "easy" and therefore not valid for good literature. I'm sure the author thought this was clever and ironic, but to me it just made the the author as much of a glutton for bad choices as much as the creation on the page. I will say it is an original idea and wanting to know how it would all turn out kept me turning the pages, but for me this is not a keeper.