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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Setting the Lawn on Fire by Mack Friedman 
8th-Feb-2006 11:17 pm
This novel, along with Bilal's Bread by Sulayman X and Mother of Sorrows by Richard McCann, both of which I've already read and reviewed as well as four others, has been nominated for the 2005 ISO Violet Quill Award honoring "works of fiction by new and emerging gay and lesbian writers." And, well, not to be unnecessarily nasty...but may the misfortune below NOT be the winner.

Friedman, Mack. Setting the Lawn on Fire. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 2005.
Summary: Ivan, who fantasizes about sex with peers and older men as a boy but settles for "pornography" of nude boys photographed for medical purposes, grows up to become a part-time hustler who makes art using collages of those medical photographs.
Comments: Urk. I was. So. Not. Impressed. This slim volume featured chapters too disjointed to be novels...I mean, canning salmon in Alaska to Merry Maids in jockstraps? Gimme a break. Color me glad for the author if these are drawn from his own life experiences (sounds...err...fun...yeah...sure...), but noteworthy episodes from one's 20th year without sufficient unity do not a good memoir, let alone novel, make. All in all, I thought the childhood portion was more interesting than the adult portion; at times it seems as if Friedman is more comfortable talking about Ivan's youthful infatuations and misadventures than about what it really mens to trade sex for money. Interestingly, unlike most child-to-youth heroes in gay fiction, Ivan has virtually no sexual experience with men until his starts hustling at the "ripe" old age of twenty. Ironically, this is the second book read today that features the death of a mother, but unlike Mother of Sorrows there seems to be no great meaning to any of the family idiosyncracies, and when Ivan goes down to Mexico, where what precipitated his mother's slow decline began, to scatter her ashes and "finds himself" both literally and figuratively in a photograph at the hostel he's staying at, the reader's reaction is of the So What? variety.
Notes: hardcover, 1st edition
Rating: 4/10 - Skip it. The book's got gorgeous production values but appallingly little substance between those clothbound covers.
28th-Feb-2006 02:08 pm (UTC)
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