This blog will touch on the experiences I have as a writer (not to be mistaken for my experience as a writer, i.e. how many books I've written, etc); the pleasure and the pain, the joy and the grief, the satisfaction and the frustration, the magic and the reality - have I left anything out, oh yeah, the rejection, rejection and more rejection, the humiliation and the embarrassment, the jealousy and the resentment - that pretty much covers it, except for why I do it which perhaps I'll realize along the way. Are you totally confused? Good, let's begin.
Jim Stegner is a semi-famous painter trying to overcome the guilt he feels about the murder of his teenage daughter. His therapy is painting and fly-fishing, both subjects of which the author provides insights and engaging details.
When Stegner happens upon a man abusing a horse he attacks him and to save the horse. When the horse owner and Stegner meet again the confrontation ends with Stegner killing the man and covering it up.
As the story unfolds it becomes apparent the Stegner has not reconciled himself with his daughter’s murder and his pent up rage is volatile and deadly.
The Painter starts slow, so slow this reader almost abandoned it. What kept me reading was some beautiful imagery of the landscape and the descriptive passages about painting. The murder takes place about a quarter into the book and from there things pick up considerably.
The Painter has flashes of brilliance, but is inconsistent. Peter Heller’s voice and style sometimes seem contrived – lots of one-word sentences, full sentences broken with periods which appear like mistakes rather than literary devices. It’s like he’s trying to write “tough”.
Heller develops excellent supporting characters, but has difficulty nailing the personality of his hero and leans heavily on a Hemingway-esque persona – tough, stoic, cigar smoking, but caring and vulnerable. He even has someone describe Stegner as looking like Hemingway.
Inconsistency also plagues the plotting of this book with some events being contrived, while others are ingenious.
The ending is adequate, in that it leaves no loose ends, but disappointing with the hero remaining, more or less, the same. It’s as if Heller really liked this guy and didn’t want to have him changed in any significant way.