The painter

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May 21, switterbug Betsey rated it it was amazing. Grief takes on epic and violent proportions in this story of a reclusive artist, one who is notable in Santa Fe. Jim Stegner cuts a searing, Hemingway-esque figure, the beard and the bigness, the love of fishing and the outdoors, and the laconic mask. However, Stegner doesn't possess much in the way of academic roots. He was essentially a punk, belligerent kid who dropped out of school, had an epiphany at age seventeen after viewing some art that blew him away, got accepted into the San Francisc Grief takes on epic and violent proportions in this story of a reclusive artist, one who is notable in Santa Fe.

He was essentially a punk, belligerent kid who dropped out of school, had an epiphany at age seventeen after viewing some art that blew him away, got accepted into the San Francisco Art Institute and dropped out , and somehow became a sensation in a few circles--certainly he makes a good sum of money. He also lost a fifteen-year-old daughter, Alce, to murder a few years ago. The novel captures the span of a few weeks when Jim is losing control.

He does have a history of violence even from before Alce was murdered, and he served time in the pen for it. Now, his rage is coloring his world, and in the space of less than a week, he kills two brothers--one, Dell, for his abusive treatment of horses, which he witnessed one day on the road, and the other, Grant, in self-defense. In the meantime, the authorities are watching him, and interviewing his friends and neighbors, like his model and sometimes lover, Sofia. Alce was a good kid, but as teenagers are wont to do, she got caught up with a reckless and dangerous crowd.

It would have been a temporary rebellion, but she was viciously murdered. Since then, Jim has been finding solace in fishing and painting--but, even after cleaning up his heavy drinking, he is stuck in despair, and contemptuous of the world around him. Yet, his paintings are also an aching, nuanced outpouring of his burdens, the daughter he lost, the brothers he killed. Stegner has a mountain of guilt that he can't unload, and he feels responsible for Alce's death. He never married Alce's mother, and after this tragedy, they permanently separated.


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Whereas Cristine moved on with her life, Stegner was consumed in torpor. And yet, his paintings are dynamic. Stegner lives in the flank of mountains that lead to Crested Butte, Colorado, which is a beautiful place I have stayed at, so I get a buzz when he describes the setting; he captures the landscape superbly. He spends most of the days fishing and, of course, painting. His style is sort of a Zen approach--to get inside the movement of the creation, and allow the spirit to move him forward.

The Painter | Washington Independent Review of Books

His large-canvas paintings are often executed in a matter of a few hours, and are more about momentum and color than studied technique. I wonder if painting isn't a way just to be like an animal for a few hours. To be in the stream of eternity To feel like that.


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Same as fishing. Stegner has a manic pulse, too, one that is both a gift and an albatross. It could redeem him, which he desires, or finish him off.

More than A New Coat of Paint

What they mean by the weight of evidence. It just piles and piles up and you carry it with you until you're walking around like a hunchback. At times, I was annoyed at how often Stegner scoffed at Southwestern art, especially because Heller came right at the edge of Stegner being a parody of himself. Stegner criticized his peers in a way that occasionally made me think less of him as a painter.

After all, his breadth of knowledge should also clue him in that there are more than a few ways to skin a cat But, as the novel progressed, this was at least partially defended, i. Also, the spacing of this novel almost dumbed it down.

It was inorganic and distracting. Too many uncalled for spaces between dialogue, passages, and paragraphs. This is also in the published version, so it is not just an ARC quirk. However, this tale was so superb, and Stegner such a riveting protagonist, and the prose itself unbearably beautiful, that I didn't let the flaws undermine my five-star assessment.

In the end, I see this as a memorable and captivating novel about loss, redemption, and reinvention, and how art moves through it all, with love. View all 14 comments. Oct 06, Perri rated it it was amazing. This book is amazing to me on so many levels. There's harrowing suspense as a man knows he's being hunted down by family members intent on revenge. It's a psychological study of a flawed, complex man with a self destructive streak and painful family history.

What I especially loved was the art. A peek inside the drive of creative genius that doesn't choose to paint, but must. How c This book is amazing to me on so many levels.

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How chapters open with the title of his painting and how the painting gets woven into the storyline. Five stars. View all 6 comments. Mar 04, Lisa rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. This was such a beautifully written book. I enjoyed this so much. One of those books that transports you and makes you feel like you're walking with the character, or that you ARE the character. Such a strong read, so colorful and moving.

View all 3 comments. Sep 04, Rob rated it really liked it. One of the more annoying things about social media — or at least some of the people I'm friends with — are the vague posts decrying all the "drama" in their lives. But what I always notice is the supreme lack of self-knowledge these posts reflect, because here's a newsflash: if there's constant drama in your life, you're the one inviting it. It doesn't happen by accident and the unive One of the more annoying things about social media — or at least some of the people I'm friends with — are the vague posts decrying all the "drama" in their lives.

It doesn't happen by accident and the universe doesn't hate you — whatever drama afflicts you is likely born of the choices you've made, either to do questionable things or surround yourself with questionable people.

The Painter

There hasn't been a cosmic roll of the dice where you've come up short. It's you. All of this is a roundabout way of introducing Joseph Heller's The Painter, which is essentially the literary equivalent of the person who posts on Facebook, "I'm sick of all the drama," without realizing he's at least partially to blame for it.

Jim Stegner is a moderately famous painter, but his life is otherwise a wreck: two failed marriages, a dead daughter, a stint in prison for shooting a man in a bar, and an uncontrollable rage that overtakes him in moments of duress. He's come to Colorado to fish and paint in silence, to find some peace, to turn his back on the drama of his life. But of course it finds him again — or, to complete my introductory thesis, he invites it back into his life. While fishing, Jim comes across two men beating a horse. Rather than walking away, he attacks the two men, and this unleashes a chain of violence and revenge that unspools over the next pages and which I won't describe here because part of the fun is seeing how Heller plays with the conventions of the revenge-thriller genre.

The problem with Stegner, however, is that he never really realizes it's his fault, that acrimony doesn't occur by happenstance.

The ensuing struggle doesn't happen without Stegner's temper. The Painter seems to me not quite as good as Heller's previous novel, The Dog Stars, but I'm also willing to concede that this may just be a matter of taste. The Dog Stars hit me hard with its fractured, unstructured melancholy; The Painter, despite treading similar ground, reads more like genre fiction — not a bad thing, but its more conventional story, of justice and redemption, didn't reach me in the same way.

But as someone who often wishes he could turn off his brain, I can certainly relate to Stegner, a vividly-drawn narrator who's compelling in the degree to which he can't seem to get out of his own way. We or at least I never stop rooting for him, even as we or at least I want to shout at him, "Don't you see what you're doing?!

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There's some beautiful stuff in here about loss and regret, about enjoying the present while simultaneously fearing the future, and, especially, about how violence inescapably begets more violence. I didn't like The Painter as much as The Dog Stars, but in many ways this is like saying, "I don't like ice cream as much as I like popcorn. View 1 comment. May 28, Stephanie rated it liked it. What a tremendously frustrating book.