The University of Wisconsin Press

Fiction / Gay Interest


Setting the Lawn on Fire
A Novel
Mack Friedman

Terrace Books

"Brilliant . . . A tribute to the power of a first-class imagination to rethink what has become a venerable genre-the coming out novel. . . . The best gay debut novel I've read in quite a long time."—Edmund White, Out

  • Winner, 2006 Publishing Triangle Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction
  • Finalist, 2006 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men's Debut Fiction
  • Finalist, 2005 InsightOut Violet Quill Award

Ivan, a young Jewish boy from Milwaukee, embarks on a journey of sexual discovery that leads him from Wisconsin to Alaska, Philadelphia, and Mexico through stints as a fishery worker, artist, and finally a hustler who learns to provide the blank canvas for other people's dreams. The result is a new kind of coming-of-age story that sees passion from every angle because its protagonist is every kind of lover: the seducer and the seduced, the pornographer and the model, the hunter and the prey, the trick and the john.

"Friedman is no less afraid of writing about raw emotion than he is of writing about lust and sexual commerce. The result is an imaginative portrait of loneliness as powerful and disturbing as any you're likely to read."—Yale Review

"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 eyebrows, a small short nose, and long hazel eyes. His hair was fine and oily and dishwater 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 the book

"Luminous and thrilling. . . . The concise lambent quality of Friedman's prose is as sensual as the evocative descriptions of erotic obsessions and encounters. Profoundly moving, Setting the Lawn on Fire manages that difficult balance of being both incredibly sexy and incredibly sorrowful."—Alistair McCartney, The Advocate

In this photo Friedman is shirtless. His hair is uncombed and uncut. He is looking down and away from the camera.Mack Friedman is 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 Between Men, Wonderlands,, and Barnstorm. He has contributed to the magazines Out Traveler and $pread, among others. This is his first novel. He lives in Pennsylvania.

There is a press kit available for the cloth edition of Setting the Lawn on Fire.  Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

the cover of Friedman's book is a stock photo illustration of a man, without a shirt, falling out of a tree. The man hasa tatoo on his arm.ling out of a tr

September 2007

LC: 2005005441 PS
160 pp.  6 x 9

Book icon
Cloth $21.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-21340-4
Book icon Paper $17.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-21344-2
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The Terrace Books logo is designed in the shape of a book with a Union chair in silhouette on the cover. The words Terrace Books, Madison, Wisconsin appear also.
Terrace Books is a trade imprint of the University of Wisconsin Press

"We meet Friedman's character in the chaotic impulses of early childhood, watch him gallop through the frustrated yearnings of adolescence and early manhood, and see him sacrificed to lust, adventure, and the market for sex. . . . Friedman has discovered the magic link between libido and humanity, arousal and our taste for living, and he shares this with us elegantly, never losing his honesty, humility, and respect for others."
—Bruce Benderson, author of User and The Romanian

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