book cover of Music for Torching

Music for Torching

(1998)
A novel by

 
 
As Quentin Crisp used to say, "Don't keep up with the Joneses! Drag them down to your level!" This could be the motto of the suburbanites in A.M. Homes's fourth novel, Music for Torching. Homes has a subtle eye and ear for suburban reality, but beware: she is no mere satirist of what James Joyce called the "muddle crass." Behind each neat, bright lawn, vile lives writhe in darkness. On the surface, Paul and Elaine are conventionally competitive middle-aged, middle-class people with banal yearnings for French doors and a new deck. They have two strapping boys. Their neighbors Pat and George are prodigies of efficient family life. But alone with Elaine, Pat drops the Stepford Wife mask and stages loveless orgies atop the throbbing washer, amid the Downy and Fantastik and Bon Ami. Meanwhile, Paul beds a local wife and a sinister mistress. The nice old man down the street downloads Internet child porn. Local kids join the Boy Scouts and bite off teachers' fingers. It's all about lurid misery and false fronts: a minor character is named Claire Roth, surely alluding to the bitter relationship in Claire Bloom's Leaving a Doll's House and Philip Roth's I Married a Communist.

Paul and Elaine first popped up in Homes's collection The Safety of Objects, as a couple having the happiest night of their lives smoking crack while the kids are away. Their happiest night here is when they tip the barbecue and burn their house halfway down. The story proceeds with a nightmare zombie logic from there, with a funny-scary ironic tone. "Paul notices that the color of her eye shadow is Fiction, and her lipstick is called Sheer Fraud.... 'What happened to the dining-room table, Elaine? Why'd you chop it to pieces?'" he wonders. "The damage was irreparable," his wife replies. Homes describes nice people doing not-so-nice deeds in luminous, precise prose way better than Bret Easton Ellis, as well as Joyce Carol Oates, and occasionally within range of John Updike. But Homes is really the evil spawn of Grace Metalious and Quentin Tarantino. --Tim Appelo


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Used availability for A M Homes's Music for Torching

Hardback Editions

August 1999 : USA Hardback
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Title: Music for Torching.
Author(s): A M Homes
ISBN: 0-385-60036-4 / 978-0-385-60036-1 (USA edition)
Publisher: MORROW. NY 1999
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


December 1998 : USA Hardback
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Title: Music for Torching
Author(s): A M Homes
ISBN: 0-688-16711-X / 978-0-688-16711-0 (USA edition)
Publisher: William Morrow
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


Paperback Editions

2012 : UK Paperback
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Title: Music For Torching
Author(s): A M Homes
ISBN: 1-84708-726-4 / 978-1-84708-726-3 (UK edition)
Publisher: Granta Books
Availability: Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


June 2006 : UK Paperback
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Title: Music for Torching
Author(s): A M Homes
ISBN: 1-86207-889-0 / 978-1-86207-889-5 (UK edition)
Publisher: Granta Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


1999 : UK Paperback
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Title: Music for Torching
Author(s): A M Homes
ISBN: 1-86230-076-3 / 978-1-86230-076-7 (UK edition)
Publisher: Anchor Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   


April 2000 : USA Paperback
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Title: Music for Torching
Author(s): A M Homes
ISBN: 0-688-17762-X / 978-0-688-17762-1 (USA edition)
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


Audio Editions

January 2015 : UK Audio CD
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Title: Music for Torching
Author(s): A M Homes
ISBN: 1-4712-8397-6 / 978-1-4712-8397-0 (UK edition)
Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks
Availability: Amazon UK   


January 2015 : USA Audio edition
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Title: Music for Torching
Author(s): A M Homes
Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks
Availability: Amazon   


January 2015 : UK Audio edition
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Title: Music for Torching
Author(s): A M Homes
Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks
Availability: Amazon UK   


Kindle Editions

September 2012 : UK Kindle edition
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Title: Music For Torching
Author(s): A M Homes
Publisher: Granta Books
Availability: Amazon UK   


October 2009 : USA, Canada Kindle edition
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Title: Music for Torching
Author(s): A M Homes
Publisher: HarperCollins e-books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon CA