Tim Ferriss has posted a counterintuitive way to light a fire in a fireplace: upside down. It reminds me of BoingBoing's advice to eat bananas backwards.
Why does an upside down fire work? If you build it with no spaces between the pieces of wood, then the embers of each layer will rest on, and heat, the layer below it. In contrast, if you put the paper and kindling on the bottom, then half of their heat radiates towards the floor, and the pieces fall out through the holes in the grate while they're still hot.
Remember that carload of firewood I bought recently? I've burned quite a bit of it, but been frustrated that it's not nearly as dry as the grocery-store stuff. It hisses and steams, the fire isn't as bright and warm as it should be, and sometimes it's nearly impossible to light. I'll try Tim's technique.