The Painter

The Painter

eBook - 2014
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"Peter Heller, the celebrated author of the breakout best-seller The Dog Stars, returns with an achingly beautiful, wildly suspenseful second novel about an artist trying to outrun his past. Years ago, a well-known expressionist painter named Jim Stegner shot a man in a bar. The man lived, Jim served his time, and he has learned to live with the dark impulses that sometimes overtake him. Jim enjoys a quiet life in the valleys of Colorado. He works with a lovely model, he doesn't drink, he goes fly fishing in the evenings. His paintings fetch excellent prices at a posh gallery in Santa Fe. He is--if he can admit it--almost happy. One day, driving down a dirt road, Jim sees a man beating a small horse. Jim leaps out of the truck, tackles the man, and bloodies his nose. The man is Dell, a cruel hunting outfitter notorious among locals. Jim cannot shake his rage over the little horse. The next night, under a full moon, telling himself he is just going night fishing, he returns to the creek where Dell has his camp and kills him. As Jim tries to come to terms with what he has done, he must evade the police, navigate his own conscience, and escape the members of Dell's clan set on revenge. And he paints the whole time; trying to make sense of his actions. Traveling from the rough adobe cottages and rivers of Colorado to the bright streets and galleries of Santa Fe, aching with grief and transcendent with beauty, The Painter is a story about art and love and violence, and using the remnants of hardship to create a rich life"-- Provided by publisher.
"Peter Heller, the celebrated author of the breakout best seller The Dog Stars, returns with an achingly beautiful, wildly suspenseful second novel about an artist trying to outrun his past"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : alfred A. Knopf, 2014
ISBN: 9780385352086
Branch Call Number: E-BOOK
Characteristics: 1 online resource

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ArapahoeAnnaL Jun 08, 2019

Beautifully evocative of the Colorado mountains and plains, the pleasures of fly fishing, and the joy of painting. The main character is complex and fascinating, an artist, father, friend, lover, and violent defender of the defenseless. The possibility of redemption at the end adds sweetness and a sense of completion.

May 07, 2019

I loved Heller's The Dog Stars, so this was painfully disappointing. The sometimes beautiful descriptive prose couldn't offset the ridiculously unbelievable plot and central character or the overall choppy Hemingway wanna-be style. And the depictions of women - who couldn't be referenced without mentioning their breasts - were problematic.

Feb 20, 2018

stunning style and story. this guy has it all. great insights on painting and therefore art. and fly fishing as well, as a few feelings transmitted on relationships. hetero, and failing or trying another(s) way.
i think this is a five out of five.
cannot cut it to lower than 80% sheeesh. what do people want? The choppy writing is great. nothing drags yo back or makes you cling to it except the joy of being told this great story.
i am very familiar with the scenery, from Santa Fe to Durango and Crested Butte and he blew me away with the insight on fishing and peace and soul of the mountains and the forests.
the beauty is always coupled with brutality, of hunting, and crime and sex and cops and smashing a fish's head against a rock to keep it. dead.
not everything is tidy or totally complete...i feel that is real. and lifelike. as long as we breathe the story is not over. sequel?
i'd read it. i learned more about painting than i ever knew.
everyone is entitled to their own opinion of course, but this is like writing a fish out of slow motion...and not running out of air.

Apr 19, 2017

I quite enjoyed this book. It reminded me a little of

I quite enjoyed this novel. It reminded me a bit of a C.J Box Novel in the background scenery.
The main character tries to fight his anger issues but not very successfully. I found myself rooting for him and shouting in my mind for him to not be so stupid when he tries to cover up his actions. He is a lost soul and rooting for a murderer is a new one for me. Well worth the read. I couldn't put it down

Feb 24, 2017

A compelling read!
A compassionate man with a violent past witnesses a man beating a horse.
His inability to let go changes his path greatly as he continues to struggle
with his own private grief.
The setting is vivid, New Mexico and Colorado rivers and mountains shine
in this well written page turner.

PimaLib_StephanieM Mar 14, 2016

I wish I could better articulate why I enjoyed this book so much. My bias toward fiction of the western United States is definitely one reason but other than that I can only say that Peter Heller creates characters and situations like no other author. This story is disturbing yet in many ways relatable because you cannot help but side with the very conflicted, very angry Jim Stegner. Although The Painter isn't dystopian like The Dog Stars, if you enjoy reading it you'll probably enjoy his other book, too.

Jul 15, 2015

I was a bit excited when I first started in on "The Painter" and found it was set in Paonia, Colorado (pop. 1,500). Members of my partner's family live in Paonia; I have actually been there, we probably hiked the same Black Canyon of the Gunnison trails as the book's protagonist, and I may have even fished in the same river where he kills a man, Dell, with a rock. Hell, I'm even named "Jim," just like the main character!

Unfortunately, that excitement didn't last too long. The first thing that killed my enthusiasm for this book was the introduction of Jim's female model who casually becomes his lover and, eventually, his dedicated partner. What is telling about this character is that I have poured over several reviews of "The Painter" to be reminded of her name (I returned my copy of the book to the library) only to find various references to "his lovely model" or "his flirty model" or the like. She appears, they apparently have a Platonic artist/model relationship for a while, then she seduces him, effectively moves in, dumps her boyfriend, lies to the sheriff to protect him, is forced into hiding to avoid Dell's vengeful family, and finally resurfaces when she travels to New Mexico to be with him after he kills someone else. All that, and no one remembers her name.

And then there's the painting and the fishing. "'That we can do the same things again and again and again and find them interesting, even fascinating, and seek the repetition with a hunger as avid,' Jim says. 'How fishing was like that, and painting.'" I'm sure that painting and fishing are fascinating and meditative to the practitioners, but not so much to those of us reading endless pages that describe the activities.

And despite the volumes of prose devoted to it, the painting comes across as inauthentic. We are told (and told and told) about what a successful artist Jim is. There is no threat or struggle there - whatever he paints is a masterpiece that his agent in Santa Fe can sell immediately. And it is noted repeatedly that he can paint fast, churning out enormous canvases in a matter of hours. That characteristic comes across more as a plot convenience than anything else - how do you tell a story that takes place over a few days yet have your protagonist finish several major works of art during that time? You make him able to paint super fast (and you invent with oil paints that miraculously dry within minutes).


Finally, and most importantly, overall there's just no arc to any of this. Jim doesn't actually develop as a person. We initially learn he is prone to explosive fits of violence and rage - but only in justifiable circumstances (against a pedophile, a poacher, etc.) - and that he is grieving the loss of his daughter, which has sobered him up and driven him to pursue a quiet life in the mountains where he can continue to be a successful artist in virtual anonymity. He kills someone who arguably deserves it then kills that man's brother in self-defense, and ineptly covers up both crimes. At the end... he's still a successful painter, he keeps his loyal model girlfriend, he stays sober, he avoids murder charges. He basically stays the same as he was at the start of the book.

A lot of people liked Heller's The Dog Stars, and I might check it out. But I was not impressed by this effort.

Jun 28, 2015

Essentially a crime novel from the criminal's perspective. The protagonist is a passionate man, with large passions in everything he does - painting, fishing, and his temper. He is described as looking like Hemingway, and perhaps this caricature is the author's goal. Most chapters start off normal and end up in a passionate rush towards something - like a roller coaster out of control.

The style was choppy also, and really didn't work for me. There is a vast gulf between the spare writing of Hemingway and this sparse but unrefined novel. Moral questions have simple answers, the villains are caricatures of bad (then misunderstood) men. Even the detective is paper thin, providing sparse investigation and moral excuses for the main character. While I can safely say I didn't see the ending coming, in hindsight it was the obvious solution.

Read this as part of "Seattle Reads", taking this book along with me on 10 days in Europe. I liked this considerably less than The Dog Stars, and found it a chore to finish.

Jun 21, 2015

I agree with the reviewer who opined that Jim Stegner needs anger management therapy. The ease with which he kills, and gets away with killing, admittedly mean people is disturbing. Also, I truly dislike his depiction of women. His descriptions of the buxomness of his lovers was nauseatingly puerile.

May 26, 2015

Peter Heller has turned into one of my favorite American novelist. Good essay of right and wrong, our hero is a vigilante who is deeply affect by the death of his daughter. Heller writes well of fishing and painting, but I had a hard time believing that our hero was like an "avenging angel"; I feel he has bad judgement and anger issues. Could use some therapy. But Heller writing is so good, better and weirder book than his first novel, "Dog Stars" . Give it a read; one of America's best young novelist is at work here.

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ArapahoeAnnaL Jun 08, 2019

Vast grass and sage plains, wooded hills. Something about the wide openness of it, the nothingness of it, the sun touching the hills off to my left. I breathed, felt the piano wires in my limb relax. The windows were rolled down and poured warm air and the tangy scents of Mormon tea and sage. I breathed. Settled. pg. 239

...and raised the revolver in two hands and braced my fists on the taut pack like a sandbag and thumbed back the hammer because it's more accurate that way than pulling it back with the trigger, and I waited three seconds for my eyes to find the shapes again in the sudden total darkness and then I put two shots into the body of his truck. pg. 245


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