Renato, the Painter
  • Author: Mirabelli, Eugene
  • Binding: Clothbound, sewn, jacketed
  • Pages: 320
  • Size: 5-1/2 x 8-1/2"
  • Pub. Year: 2012
  • ISBN: 0-929701-96-8
  • In Stock: Yes
Price: $25.00

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In his own mind Renato Stillamare may be the best painter of his generation-- at least, he doesn't know anyone better -- but his canvasses aren't in demand, and haven't been since his last show at a Newbury Street gallery twenty-five years ago. Now 70, and retired from teaching at Copley College of Art, Renato has retreated to his Boston studio where he is defiantly painting, painting, painting, determined to be rediscovered. Renato is a lusty, large-hearted, smart, opinionated, and occasionally intemperate man whose children (including a daughter by his accidental mistress) are all grown up and dispersed, whose best friend (whom he misses more than anyone) died years before, and whose maddening wife (the love of his life) lives in a condo on the opposite bank of the Charles. But Renato's life is about become much more complicated when the jewelry-pierced daughter of a former student shows up at his studio with her little four-year-old boy in tow. Renato's story, which he unabashedly recounts with flair and verve, is about extraordinary things happening to an ordinary man living life to the fullest. A funny, touching, even magical novel, Renato, the Painter deservedly takes its place alongside such classics as The Ginger Man and The Horse's Mouth.

As is the case with many first-person novels, the hero of Eugene Mirabelli's Renato, the Painter is a foundling. When a baby appears on the doorstep of Bianca and Fidele Stilamare, they name the child Renato--Italian for "reborn"--and he grows up to become an artist whose fine work has failed to receive the accolades it deserves. (The same might also be said of Mirabelli himself.)
This [stand-alone] sequel to earlier Mirabelli novels like The Passion of Teri Heart and The Goddess in Love with a Horse is a powerful, life-affirming story, a lusty, bawdy, hilarious romp through life as recounted by Renato in his old age. As a young boy, Renato enjoyed reading one of the few books in the Italian immigrant family's home: Benvenuto Cellini's Autobiography. As he grows up, his love of girls, then women, then drawing and painting, grows stronger and stronger until he feels he must devote his life to them (all of them). He marries, but that doesn't go well; although he loves his wife deeply, they remain apart--closely apart, that is, on opposite sides of Boston's Charles River, which only makes their relationship more hilarious and frustrating.
Later, a young woman, Avalon, the daughter of a close and dear friend, comes along with her son Kim. Renato just wants to help her out, but their relationship gradually evolves into something tender and beautiful: "Her hand glided from my shoulder to my flank with a caution so gentle it startled, she had a vigorous embrace and such tenderly inquisitive fingers as to doom a young man to her touch, and I was grateful to be old." Mirabelli's lovely, poetic prose, which fills his characterization of Renato to its brim, is a joy.
"Looking back, I'm baffled that I haven't done better," Renato reflects. "I don't mean painting; I've done all right painting even if nobody knows it. But I could have given more time to my friends, could have listened more and complained less, could have been more generous to everyone." Renato has done well, has lived and loved, and has served his mentor Cellini very well indeed. --Tom Lavoie
Shelf Talker: Once you've read this lovely novel, you'll be hunting down the rest of Mirabelli's stories, which form an extended history of the fictional Cavallu clan


Lawrence Kinsman's excellent essay-review at Mercury Book Reviews begins "Eugene Mirabelli's Renato, the Painter won the top prize at the 2013 Independent Publishers Awards. It is easy to see why. This splendidly layered comic novel dramatizes perhaps more effectively than any other fiction I have read the tribulations and joys experienced by a serious artist—in this case, an Italian-American painter named Renato Stillamare as he loves and worksand battles his way through his seventieth year." Continue to the full review

Eugene Mirabelli Feature Interview, 7/15/12: Albany Times-Union

Eugene Mirabelli Radio Interview, 5/25/12: WAMC The Roundtable

Read Mirabelli's wonderfully droll blog: Critical Pages

Find out more about Mirabelli's books:

"For those who long to discover new writers of quality, Mirabelli is well worth the effort." -- Philadelphia Inquirer

Gene Mirabelli's first novel was published fifty years ago. He is the author of seven others, one novella and a mini-book, certain anonymous pieces, and numerous journal articles and reviews. He didn't know he wrote science fiction until a few years ago when Fantasy & Science Fiction published one of his short stories. His novels often deal with affairs of the heart and should not be left around the house where youngsters might read them. He's received grants for his work, including one from the Rockefeller Foundation...

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