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Setting the Lawn on Fire: A Novel Hardcover – 30 Sep 2005

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Terrace Books (30 Sept. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299213404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299213404
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,053,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"The summer I turned twenty I fell in love with traveling and a boy named Sean. We lived in a tent made from plywood and pallets and stolen blue tarpaulin. We worked the same line in an Alaskan fish factory. We watched the river for biplanes and rock cod and swooping black cormorants. We climbed a mountain and stashed red wine in the snow. When we weren't working Sean would take off the only shirt he ever wore. He was a quiet mousy boy about five-five. His mother had recently killed herself. He never told us how. He had shiny white canines, thin black eye-brows, a small short nose, and long hazel eyes. His hair was fine and oily and dish-water blonde and flopped over his face so he had to wear a hairnet when he excised the skulls before the tops went on the cans." - excerpt from Setting the Lawn on Fire"

About the Author

Mack Friedman is the author of Strapped for Cash: A History of American Hustler Culture. His essays have been featured at the Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Art and the Leslie-Lohman Gallery, and his performance art has been showcased at the Andy Warhol Museum. His stories have appeared in the anthologies Obsessed, Wonderlands, and Barnstorm. This is his first novel.

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Format: Hardcover
Ivan, the main protagonist in Mack Friedman's first novel, isn't your usual confused and diffident gay teenager. Aching to be cut loose from his middle-class and somewhat conservative Jewish roots, Ivan begins to realize who and what he is at a very early age. Ivan is of course devastated when his archaeologist mother suddenly dies. When his father leaves to pursue his scientific research overseas, Ivan is largely left to his own devices.

It is 1985 and Ivan's friendship with Jeremy shapes much of his adolescence and his bourgeoning attraction towards men. He even admits that he didn't know what he was becoming, "it was because I didn't think I was. I had a sense of it but my point of view was limited: it was skin-deep and the boys always had clothes on."

An experience with his gymnastics teacher alters forever his prudish and hesitant views on sex, but it is the erotic images of boys in medical textbooks, that awakens Ivan to the first enthralls of self-pleasure, and he gradually becomes obsessed with these distilled images. Their influence over Ivan is undeniably powerful, his fascination with these boys largely affecting his ability to relate to men later in his journey.

In his early twenties, Ivan travels to the island of Ketchikan, off the west coast of British Columbia to work as a day laborer in a fish factory. Here he meets a bunch of other like-minded young, sexually frustrated, drifter guys. Although he keeps his sexual orientation to himself, he soon develops a crush on a boy called Sean and begins to obsess over "his dark nipples and his torn boxers.
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Format: Hardcover
The series of poetic, sexually-charged vignettes which make up this book create a very different picture of a young gay man from the typical coming out novel. However, the sense of extreme isolation remains, especially after the narrator Ivan is virtually abandoned by his parents. His already itinerant mother dies from a virus and his father leaves the country to pursue his scientific research. But Ivan chooses to isolate himself further by travelling to work in an Alaskan fish factory where he falls in love with a young man he shares a tent with. Ivan has a propensity for rejecting any prospects for a real connection in favour of pursuing the dream of the unattainable. Later, after Ivan moves back home, a young man propositions him in the locker room. But he leaves him in favour of trying to feel up a young Romanian basketball player he's cornered in a parking garage. There's a sense of danger here for the boy's safety as Ivan plays out his sexual fantasy, just as later on when he begins working as an escort we fear for Ivan's safety. The multifarious erotic encounters Ivan pursues turn out not to be for sexual fulfilment, but a desperate reclaiming of his boyhood self: "any boy will really do, as long as he resembles how I used to look, reminds me how I used to feel. I lost touch. You see. I shake myself away." Although Ivan is rapidly reaching the age of adulthood, there is a sense that his childhood has been lost or stolen. His pursuit to reclaim it is oftentimes disturbing like his obsession with medical textbook photographs of naked boys or the series killer who takes the body parts of his gay victims that lurks in the background of this story.Read more ›
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