cover image Renato the Painter

Renato the Painter

Eugene Mirabelli. McPherson, $25 (320p) ISBN 978-0-929701-96-7

An aging artist rages against artistic and physical mortality in Mirabelli’s latest. What first looks like a sentimental retrospective of Renato’s life—from his beginnings as a foundling through his randy adolescence to his early years as an amorous art student—becomes something more engaging. Here is 70-year-old Renato, living in his Boston studio, separated from his beloved but maddening wife by the Charles River. It seems as if everything is slowing—his body, demand for his paintings, his ability to keep up with his complicated family life—everything but his sex drive, that is. When the punky, pierced daughter of an old friend shows up, her eight-year-old son in tow, Renato resists both her attempts at friendship and his attraction to her, preferring to exult in his own misanthropy. Although at times reminiscent of one of Woody Allen’s aging male protagonists, Renato is less broadly curmudgeonly and more empathetically human. “God made us mortal, and all we have to assuage us is this perishable art and human love,” Renato reflects. In prose as lusty and vigorous as Renato himself, Mirabelli captures the feeling of coming to terms—ready or not—with old age. (May)