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Art on Fire Paperback – December 11, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bywater Books; 1ST edition (December 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612940315
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612940311
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.3 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,404,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Art on Fire has won the following awards:

American Library Association Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Award 2014
Ben Franklin Book Award Silver Medal Winner
Bywater Prize for Fiction
Golden Crown Literary Award
Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Indie Book Finalist
ForeWord Book of the Year Finalist

"Let this one seep into your mind and work its magic on you. It’s the superb craftsmanship of a master storyteller at work. " —Out in Print

"Art on Fire is alive with passion, humor, and real truth." —Lambda Literary Review

About the Author

Hilary Sloin makes her living as a freelance editor, handling all kinds of works. She's also been writing—fiction, essays and more—for years. Sloin says her two-way window into the process of writing has proven valuable. Editing other people's work has made her a better writer.

More About the Author

Hilary Sloin began her writing career as a playwright in the 80s. Her plays, which were mostly gay-themed and fairly subversive, were widely produced in the U.S. Lust and Pity was given main stage productions at the Westbank Café in NY, Theatre Rhinoceros in San Francisco, Alice B. Theatre in Seattle, Bailiwick Theatre in Chicago, and others. Other plays were produced in LA and at Smith College and received readings in NY. After a time, she switched to essays and short fiction, publishing in many small journals and anthologies and attending a number of residencies. Art on Fire was her first attempt at a novel and it took a long time to write. It garnered many accolades, including the bizarre honor of being mistakenly awarded prizes for non-fiction; there were those in the industry who wanted to publish it, thinking it was a biography, which, crazy as it is, attests to the success of the book's intention. Sloin has recently completed a collection of short fiction entitled The Cure for Unhappiness and is currently at work on a manuscript about selling antiques, Pimpin' the Frontier. When she isn't writing she is usually refinishing or restoring antiques.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Sad, funny, intellectual, and complex.
Carol Glaser
Art on Fire is the story of pain, love, art and learning about ourselves and being proud of who we are.
It made me laugh and cry as I was writing it.'
Grady Harp

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Hilary Sloin has struck gold with this extraordinarily readable quasi biography that succeeds on so many levels - many of which are unique to the literary plate. Sloin has created a story about a girl, Francesca de Silva, who has struggled from early childhood with sibling rivalry (her mentally ill and intelligent wonder child sister Isabella writes poetry and has her work published at age 12!), with inconsequential and subjugating parenting, with a beautifully close relationship with a loving grandmother who is her Gilead until she discovers Francesca is lesbian (her love is Lisa Sinsong, a chess genius) and casts her out of her safe refuge. Francesca is left without family ties and seeks solace in living alone in a cabin in Massachusetts where while working days in a flea market she discovers that by night her attempts are creating art are surprisingly successful.

From there we follow the life and love of an artist in a most interesting manner. Sloin interjects short chapters devoted to critiques of Francesca's paintings - a solid and very thoughtful way to explore the psyche of an artist. The author in an interview explains the book best: `I fell in love first with Isabella, the protagonist's mentally ill and acutely intelligent sister. Isabella is so much smarter and wittier than I have ever proved to be and, of course, this fascinates me. How can I create a character who surpasses me by leaps and bounds? Soon I fell in love with Francesca, too, but that was for entirely different reasons: I had created my dream lover: a cowboy in girl's clothing, the one who cannot be possessed, who oozes with the need to express herself but cannot.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Diacritical(re)Mark on January 24, 2013
Format: Paperback
Sloin's brilliant sendup of the 1980s art world and criticism, this fictional biography of Francesca de Silva fairly snaps and crackles with freshness, intelligence and wry humor. A story about family as much as it is a satire about art and politics in the 80s, Sloin's portrait of the New Haven, Jewish-ish De Silvas recall Allegra Goodman's Family Markowitz. Older sister Isabella with her tormented brilliance and fascination with dead heroines makes a riveting character, and I confess a particular soft spot and admiration for Evelyn the Grandmother. The chapter in which she goes to the bakery in a state of dementia is out of this world brilliant, nuanced and riveting.That chapter alone gives Alice LaPlante a run for her money, and more.

Sloin's imaginative conceit, supported by the critical essays, works brilliantly, and I can see why Art of Fire erroneously won a non-fiction prize. Those essays --and their footnotes-- had so much delightful tongue in cheek in them down to the tiniest detail, I was constantly impressed, and laughing.

This novel is a breath of fresh air in the world of lesbian publishing. Kudos to Bywater and to Hilary Sloin for bringing something smart and new to the table.
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By JRHassett on September 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Life of pseudo-realism painter Francesca deSilva -- 13 of her paintings hang side-by-side at the Francesca deSilva Memorial Museum in Turo, Mass.
An unusual genre for me, I've been exploring various writings with my oldest daughter in the LGBT literary category. Art on Fire is the story of pain, love, art and learning about ourselves and being proud of who we are.
Author Hilary Sloin used the 13 remaining paintings, after a horrorific fire, to tell her version of Francesca's life as a painter, lesbian and recluse. Francesca lived in the attic of her parents stark home by choice and was always over-shadowed by her younger sister who eventually goes mad.
Francesca's love life is explained using the author's interpretation of her paintings. A unique way to write with a clear voice, gave me the opportunity to think about art in a different way. It's also a window to the LGBT community and their pain and isolation in society then and now.
This well written story of life could and should be read by all who wish to understand a different way of life.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sage320 on May 26, 2013
Format: Paperback
What should be said about a book that is supposed to be a satire on pretentiousness and becomes pretentious itself? Either it's a great success or a colossal failure.

First, it must be pointed out that this is a work of fiction. Sloin does such an excellent job of creating the sense that this is a biography that readers and others are constantly confused as to what it is. The book succeeded at winning an award for nonfiction until it was pointed out that the story is pure fiction.

This is not a book for someone who wants a leisurely entertaining reading experience. It takes effort to get through this book. The story can't be consumed by itself because the reader is distracted by the footnotes and commentary that are sprinkled through it. Even while you tell yourself that these items are manufactured by Sloin, they seem realistic and beg to be read. Often the real points of the book are expressed in these notes and not in the story. Francesca's story is second place to the observations that are made in the notes. Sometimes that's a blessing because Francesca is the type of character a reader wants to shake and tell to wake up to real life. Then again her whole family is composed that way. In the end Francesca deSilva is a pathetic character. What makes her life noteworthy is her paintings and they don't survive her, so there is a feeling of a waste of a life and a waste of effort to tell about that life.

Sloin uses the book to make some strong statements. In the footnotes she takes jabs at the art community as she manufactures experts to give manufactured opinions. She also attacks segments of the gay and lesbian community.
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