Customer Reviews

621
4.1 out of 5 stars
The Painter: A novel
Format: HardcoverChange
Price:$17.74 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

125 of 137 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The first thing I want to say about this book, is how much it made me further appreciate the brilliance of The Dog Stars. You read a debut novel like that and you don't know if that's always the writer's style. And stylistically, you can see echoes of that writing in this book, but in reading this book you can also feel the deliberateness of the writing in Dog Stars, and that makes it even more special in retrospect.

The opening lines of the book "I never imagined I would shoot a man. Or be a father. Or live so far from the sea. As a child, you imagine your life sometimes, how it will be. I never thought I would be a painter."

That's the story of this book. The exploration of Jim Stenger as a man, a father, an artist. Heller explores the emotion of art, violence and grief. All masterfully. The emotion and the art, laid out for you raw to experience for yourself. Not told to you. I contrasted it with the recently popular "The Goldfinch" where at every step you were told how important art is, and how you should feel about it. There is none of that in this book. It just is. I think I fell a little bit in love with Heller reading this book. A man who is so unflinching in his exploration of feeling, trying to come to terms with who he really is in contrast to who he thinks he is.

I'm not sure if this book will have the same appeal as The Dog Stars, but I loved it. The violence in The Dog Stars was contextual. I guess you need to decide for yourself if the violence in this book is as well.

"It can be a dangerous place to be, for me. Displaced in time. I am not fully responsible for the now because the now has repudiated me...."
66 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Last year I was bothered by something I read in an online writers’ forum—that writing is not art. It wasn’t just the statement, but mainly that it was posted by a writer. If anything can help disprove that statement and prove that writing is indeed an art form, then Peter Heller’s THE PAINTER is it. This book is an expression from an artist about an artist. As the protagonists ponders, “Nobody, not even artists, understand art.”

THE PAINTER is the story of Jim Stegner: painter, father, lover. Human. The opening lines set the mood brilliantly: “I never imagined I would shoot a man. Or be a father. Or live so far from the sea.” Jim is a troubled man, wanting to be at peace with the world: seemingly always going in the opposite direction. He’s haunted, yet kind; brilliant, yet weak. He has a tough, enigmatic exterior, with a confused, sensitive interior. As he asks himself, “Can I say that I feel happy? First time in how long? No. Won’t say it. Shut up and inhale and drive.”

Heller’s writing provides a unique voice that is consistent throughout. It feels casual with its detailed descriptions: laid back, yet anxious to go. Some may define this writing as “stream of consciousness”; I prefer to label it as near-poetic. There are plenty of references to poetry throughout, including direct quotes from many poets. My favorite reference being a quote from T.S. Eliot. Don’t let that poetry reference fool you; there’s plenty of action. Heller’s character is not a docile painter of the “Great American Southwest Post-Expressionist Naïf”—his troubled past exponentiates into a near-catastrophic present. As the protagonist Jim Stegner prays, “Grant me, grant me, oh Lord, relief. From all my [f-ups].”

In the end, THE PAINTER is more about life than it is about art. But aren’t they synonymous? I think this in-book quote sums it up nicely: “What more really can be at stake except life itself, which is why maybe artists are always equating the two and driving everybody crazy by insisting that art is life.” So, if you want art, read this book. If you want insight into an artist’s soul, read this book. If you want pleasure in the literary, read this book. In other words, read this book.

Thank you to Knopf and Random House for providing this book for me to review.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
149 of 183 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I adored The Dog Stars and recommended and/or gave it to every book lover I know. It was a lyrical, profoundly felt, exquisite creation.

I started off The Painter happy to be immersed again in Heller's lyrical prose. Even violence has a certain logic to it, whether or not it's reasonable to the reader's mind. But Heller created a character brimming with so much self-pity and such an enormous, seemingly innate, drive to violence that it simply didn't make for good reading.

The book comes to life intermittently when Jim Stegner, the painter and dry-drunk [not attending AA meetings, no sponsor], works on his art. And it falls into, Are-you-kidding-mode? when, without any warning, the man turns killer. For me, The Painter started its descent from the heights at that point. What happens is shocking because it makes no sense. He is, supposedly, a sensitive, loving soul who creates wonderfully vivid and perceptive images, but he keeps going after men who say or do things that bother him. Are we talking manic-depressive here? Are we talking of someone who goes into fugue states? What's going on?

And how come Jim never once questions how the murdered Dell's brother, Grant, or Jason, a member of the brothers' family, manage to keep turning up where he is, no matter how distant, how out-of-the way he happens to be? Are they using GPS? Long, detailed descriptions of where Jim is going and yet here's Dell's Brother Grant, coming right behind, with retribution in mind. Ditto with Jason, promising revenge, on Jim's tail wherever he goes. How?

The women in this book are all mystically magical; knowing, potent creatures who can restore this man to soundness. Really? We're in fantasy land on this aspect of the story. It's never clear just exactly what Jim is bringing to their tables. He's perpetually in a wounded state and women show up to heal him. Hmmmn. Not in the reality most of us know.

The characters in this book who best come to life are all secondary players: a pair of little-girl twins and their mother, Bob at the service station. But the major figures fail, in the main because they are simply unbelievable.

That Heller has painted ugly kill-worthy pictures of the Siminoe brothers, doesn't validate Jim's murderous behavior. By the time I got to the end of the book -- hoping all the way for some sort of redemption -- I was just very sad and deeply disappointed that such a gifted writer had created such a basically unsympathetic character upon which to hang this tale. I can only hope he finds his way to something more worthy of his efforts with his next book.
1414 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Heller is an extremely gifted writer, a true pleasure to read. Unfortunately, it is difficult to appreciate very much about his lead character, the painter. While we can all appreciate a deeply flawed man who is trying to work his way through a difficult situation, that is not exactly what we have here. The painter appears to be a deeply flawed and extremely self absorbed man who follows any impulse that happens to enter his consciousness, consequences be damned. Beyond that, I found his ability to attract young and amazingly beautiful women to be very hard to understand. At no point in the book did I read any description of this character that would lead me to think he would be much of a prize for any woman, much less the supermodel variety. As to the ending, I will say no more than, for me, it was a bit of a let down.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon April 13, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
And Jim Stegner's got some serious problems, like cops who want to send him to jail for murder, and vengeful men with guns out to kill him. On top of this, he's unable to get over the tragic death of his teenage daughter. But fishing is pure joy, as is painting, for this outrageous post-Expressionist artist.

The heart of the story has to do with the moral dilemmas Jim Stegner gets himself entangled in. Stegner is a bar fighter and brawler who's given up drinking but not the red hot anger that goes with it. His violent impulses, always unleashed in a good cause, lead to all sorts of trouble. The painter's creative process contrasts with his destructive behavior.

At first I found the story painful reading. I was put off by the painter's arrogance and self-pity. But Stegner's flaws make his struggles to learn from life all the more interesting. In the end, it's more fun to read about an SOB than a saint. And he's an SOB with a good heart. Still, I never quite got over my distaste for some of the painter's exploits.

Here are the things I liked most about this book: the ecstatic descriptions of fly fishing, the lyrical descriptions of the experience of painting, Stegner's funny conversations with his greedy art dealer, the vivid picture of the Santa Fe art scene, the amusing reactions of the cops to Stegner's edgy art, the unpredictable unfolding of the plot, the quirky ending, and, not least of all, the wild car chases and shoot-outs.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
At first glance, it seems that The Painter – Peter Heller’s ravishing second novel – has little in common with Dog Stars, his debut book that positioned him as a writer to watch. Yet each, in its own way, chronicles a journey toward spiritual regeneration, a journey to finding grace in a merciless universe.

The Painter reconfirms that Peter Heller has a massive talent. Our narrator is Jim Stegner, an expressionist New Mexican artist, an avid fly fisherman, and the father of a teenage girl whose life ended tragically. He also has a self-defined heart of a killer (the very first line reads, “I never imagined I would shoot a man. Or be a father. Or live so far from the sea.”) Yet as we quickly discover, Jim is a murderer with sensitivity: he rids the world of a lowlife who viciously abused a vulnerable little roan.

The dichotomies of Jim’s life – his artwork and the murder – represent his two polarities, the art of creation and the art of destruction. And both serve a more important goal: freeing himself (and the world) from pain and moving toward redemption. (Jim reflects, “To paint simply and to feel a cooling, the calmness of craft, of being a journeyman who focuses on the simple task: pin this one corner together and make it fit in an expanding universe.”)

As Jim’s paintings become more inspired, borrowing from what is happening in his life and his soul, he gradually moves from personal loss to growth. Mr. Heller writes, “Because the process has always been craft, years and years; then faith; then letting go. But now, sometimes the best work is agony. Pieces put together, torn apart, rebuilt. Doubt in everything that has been learned, terrible crisis of faith, the faith that allowed it all to work.”

The Painter can be read on many levels. On its most surface level, it’s a suspenseful narrative of a tortured man and brilliant artist who must evade the authorities as well as the vengeful clan of the man he killed. On a deeper level, it’s a book about grief and the dark places it takes us, and the ways that we struggle for understanding and the regeneration. On another level yet, it’s about how art can help us transcend our demons by capturing and recreating them. It’s a brilliant book and I can’t wait to see where this author goes next.
1717 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I wondered after finishing this book if it was poking fun at the art world, and also taking a poke at those who wrote about crime.
Mr. Heller was comparing fishing with making art. All well done. However, I felt the plot was all over the place, just too many things going on. Did we need to read the entire plot of a tv show the protagonist was watching? All too much, and became ordinary and boring after a while.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
When you've written a book as good and successful as "The Dog Stars", it's inevitable that your next novel will attract attention and comparison. Peter Heller's new novel, "The Painter", does share many attributes of his previous work; it is narrated by a "manly man", Jim Stegner, via short paragraphs and short sentences broken with longer descriptive passages. It also has some intense suspense.

But I never could really warm up to Jim. He is a man with utterly no impulse control and not enough self-awareness to realize that all his problems, faults, crimes and sins have been 100% from his own poor choices. A recovering alcoholic, he knew he needed help to get sober, but doesn't seem to realize he also needs help with his violent reactions. Jim always makes the violent choice; he runs when he should stay in place, he hides when he should stand tall, he accelerates when he should apply the brakes. The plot is propelled by Jim's ill-conceived actions, and the attending consequences provide the suspense.

Jim is both a fly fisherman and a painter. Heller details both activities, and while I wasn't very interested in fly fishing (other readers will be), I was very interested in the life, techniques and business concerns of the artist. Through Jim, Heller beautifully describes both Jim's fictional paintings as well as real paintings that exist in our world. I looked up all of those works on line and compared them to Heller's descriptions and analysis and I was able to take a "deeper" look into those pieces. This was my favorite part of the book. In this novel Heller proves his artistry as a "word painter" - his prose is absolutely gorgeous.
33 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
After reading and really enjoying The Dog Stars - Peter Heller's first book which I fould really wonderful this was a real
disappoinment. Firstly I did not like the main character - Jim - he was arrogant and so full of himself that to even try
to like him was for me difficult.That he manages to kill two more people and then get away with it really got to me...
I still feel he should have been punished - these were actual crimes with no consequences. I did not feel any sympathy for
him when his daughter was killed; it was almost like he deserved to suffer. When I don't like the characters in a
book it puts me off reading. Secondly there was far too much fishing and the catching thereof - very boring if you are not a fisherman yourself. Also, his style of painting sounded too good to be true and since he painted so quickly I did not have any impression of what the actualy painting looked like after completion.
So, I would not recommend this particular book to anyone. If Dog Stars was a good book for you, then give this one
a miss.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I am very glad I got over my initial hurdle with this fine novel---as Heller has created his own style that can be alarming at first (like double spacing between paragraphs--and no italics in dialogue)--then I realized--this is how I write letters now! Do NOT let this minor thing throw you off! By the end of the book--I liked it.
To be honest--I have lived in the exact areas where this novel takes place--the southwestern slope of Colorado--Taos--Santa Fe--and the magical spaces between--for the last 17 years. So rather obscure place names (Ojo Caliente--places around Santa Fe) are familiar to me. And I went to high school with the author--but this made me MORE critical (oddly)!!
While I enjoyed "The Dog Stars"--this new book is much better IMHO. I am not a big "post-apocolyptic" story fan. I am much more interested in the here and now or recent past. "The Painter" is intense---like Jim Harrison mixed with a touch of James Lee Burke---2 of my very favorite writers. It is not for the faint of heart. But there is a powerful message in this story--and the characters were easy for me to identify with--like the location (no coincidence?).
If you love the Southwest (or not) and love a fast-moving and gripping story about love and loss--creativity and rage--karmic consequences--then I believe you will love this book as I do....
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed
The Dog Stars (Vintage Contemporaries)
The Dog Stars (Vintage Contemporaries) by Peter Heller (Paperback - May 7, 2013)
$10.35


The Laughing Monsters: A Novel
The Laughing Monsters: A Novel by Denis Johnson (Hardcover - November 4, 2014)
$17.48
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.