Renato, the Painter was awarded the top prize in the 2013 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Book awards. That year the number one spot in the literary fiction category was a tie, and Eugene Mirabelli’s novel shared top honors with Ned Bachus’s City of Brotherly Love. The Awards program was created to highlight the year’s most distinguished books from independent publishers. Award winners are chosen by librarians and booksellers who are on the front lines, working everyday with patrons and customers. Some 125 books competed for the literary fiction Gold Medal. These books are examples of independent publishing at its finest.
Renato Stillamare paints landscapes as if they were nudes, and nudes as if they were landscapes. One winter’s night seventy years earlier in Lexington, Massachusetts, he was found swaddled in a basket outside the front door of a large, resourceful, passionate, and somewhat rash Sicilian-American clan named Cavallù, which adopted him. He may be the best painter of his generation, but his canvasses are no longer in demand, nor have they been for the twenty-five years since last he had a show in a Newbury Street gallery. After retiring from teaching at Copley College of Art, Renato has retreated back to his Boston studio, if retreat is the word, where he is furiously painting, painting, painting, determined to be rediscovered. A force of nature, Renato is a big-hearted, lusty, opinionated, and occasionally intemperate man of large appetites and enlarged prostate whose three 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 ago, whose occasional wife (the love of his life) lives in a condo on the opposite bank of the Charles, and whose life is about to become that much more complicated when the gothbedecked daughter of a former student crashes at his loft with her little boy. The uproarious story of Renato’s 70th year, which he unabashedly recounts with amazement and bonhomie, is about extraordinary things simply happening to an ordinary man caught up in living life to the fullest. A funny, touching, even magical novel, Renato, the Painter is a splendid addition to such comic classics as The Ginger Man and The Horse’s Mouth.
$25 cloth, 320 pages, 5.75 x 8.75”, 978-0-929701-96-7
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The following review is from the premiere source that critics and book sellers alike rely on, Shelf Awareness . . .
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 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.
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
More information about Eugene Mirabelli and his books is available on his home page at the Authors Guild website
Eugene Mirabelli is the author of eight highly acclaimed novels— The Burning Air, The Way In, No Resting Place, The World at Noon, The Language Nobody Speaks, The Passion of Terri Heart, and The Goddess in Love with a Horse — three of which feature members of Renato’s extended family and his friends.
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Gene Mirabelli lives in upstate New York and writes Critical Pages, a web site where he and a few others post pieces on society, popular culture, the arts and sciences, economics and political affairs. He's a Professor Emeritus at SUNY-Albany and was one of the founders and directors of Alternative Literary Programs in the Schools. His short stories have been translated into French, Russian, Chinese, Czech, Sicilian,Turkish, and Hebrew.
You can find an interview with Eugene Mirabelli discussing Renato, the Painter at National Public Radio's WAMC station.
About Renato, the Painter, Shelf Awareness says, "This 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."
The reviewer at Compulsion Reads says, "the book is exceptional, and I would strongly recommend it".
Photo of the writer by Lynn Finley.
Praise for Eugene Mirabelli’s Earlier Fiction
The Language Nobody Speaks is “a small masterpiece of the kind that if this were France, everybody would be buying.”—Andrei Codrescu
“The Goddess in Love with a Horse is a magical novel. It tells a story of Sicilians who migrate from Italy to America but never lose their intimacy with ancient gods. Mirabelli’s characters are paragons of beauty and superhuman desire that might have stepped out of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.”—Robert Viscusi
"There are echoes of fable in The Goddess in Love with a Horse; reverberations of every romantic classic that ever gripped your heart. A slender volume that still manages to inspire epic thoughts. Sensuous. Delicious. A delight." -January Magazine online
“The Goddess in Love with a Horse marries the long reach of history to the present moment, the real to the surreal, the romantic to the workaday world—and does so with great grace throughout. Eugene Mirabelli crosses the Atlantic by sea and air and on a magic carpet woven out of language; his wit and passionate brio can transport us all.”—Nicholas Delbanco
“Eugene Mirabelli has plucked the unforgettable Terri Heart [The Passion of Terri Heart] from one of the most painful intersections of recent history, a time when a pure, brilliant love met the evil of a corrupting culture. Terri is a lovable tart and saint, rendered unforgettable by Mirabelli’s wonderful writing. This touching, deft, and suspenseful novel should take its place on that lovely shelf alongside Lolita.”—Andrei Codrescu, NPR
“For those who long to discover new writers of quality, Mirabelli is well worth the effort.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
The Burning Air “tells more of love than 1,000 weightier novels.”—London Sunday Dispatch
The Burning Air is “a notable success.”—Saturday Review
“The discovery of world and self [in TheWay In]...Eugene Mirabelli translates into terms so fresh and primary that they seem uniquely his own...a virtuoso performance.”—The New York Times
"No Resting Place is the best book about a contemporary marriage I have ever read.”—Anne Bernays
“The World at Noon is history, myth, and folklore. But above all else, it is art.” —Kenneth Scambray