In the course of his long and productive literary career Eugene Mirabelli (or just plain Gene) has written many stories and novels which share characters and histories. The result is a rich mosaic of fictions, a mix of the realistic and the magical, and among these inter-related works are three which have been revised and assembled in the magnum opus, RENATO!, the life affirming history of Renato Stillamare.
“Over the decades, and steadily, Eugene Mirabelli has been working on a major canvas—beginning with The Goddess in Love with a Horse and coming to fruition in this work. An artist writing about artists is, always, a bit of a gamble, but it’s this reader’s opinion that our high-stakes gambler has hit the jackpot here. The real and the surreal blend together seamlessly; the love affair endures.”—Nicholas Delbanco, author of Why Writing Matters, and the novel It Is Enough,
Renato After Alba
Renato After Alba is the astonishing sequel to the prize-winning book Renato, the Painter. Although it follows the earlier story, it is a stand-alone novel which can be read independently of the earlier work. Renato is an all too human, generous, loving (all too loving) flawed man, a painter with a first-rate talent and a second-rate career, “an artist who paints landscapes as if they were nudes, and nudes as if they were landscapes,” yes, that Renato, the family man whose wife, the beautiful Alba, has brought up not only their two children, but also the child he fathered out of wedlock, that same Renato who finally brought together his children, their mothers, his friends, his paintings, his everything, is now — ten years later — demolished by the unexpected death of his wife. A man of fragments but still an artist, he assembles a collage of scenes of life with and without Alba, recollections of his eccentric Sicilian-American family, encounters with well-meaning friends, daily attempts at resuming his former life, and metaphysical railings against any deity capable of destroying what it has created. In Renato After Alba, the deepest sorrow is not merely lacerating, outrageous, heart-rending, and tragic, but also, for someone so completely human as the enduring Renato, touchingly comic.
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. The Awards program was created to highlight the year’s most distinguished books from independent publishers.
An additional honor came later — in a twenty-year round up for a summer reading list, Renato, the Painter, was chosen as the best of the best from 2013.
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.
—Tom Lavoie 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.
Renato, the Painter — open the book
Renato Staillamare may be the best painter of his generation — at least he doesn’t know anyone better — but his canvasses aren’t in demand, and haven’t been since his last show at a Newbury Street gallery twenty-five years ago. Now 70, and retired from teaching at Copley College of Art, Renato’s retreated to his Boston studio where he is defiantly painting, painting, painting, determined to be rediscovered. Renato is a lusty, large-hearted, smart, opinionated, and occasionally intemperate man whose 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 before, and whose maddening wife (the love of his life) lives in a condo on the opposite bank of the Charles. But his life is about to become much more complicated when the goth-bedecked daughter of a former student shows up at his studio with her little boy in tow. Renato’s story, which he unabashedly recounts with flare and verve, is about extraordinary things happening to an ordinary man living life to the fullest. A funny, touching, even magical novel, Renato, the Painter deservedly takes its place alongside such classics as The Ginger Man and The Horse’s Mouth.
Ten years after the conclusion of Renato Stillamare’s defiant confessions in Renato, the Painter, Alba, his beloved wife of fifty years dies without warning, and the blow leaves him in pieces. When he resumes his narrative, the larger-than-life artist has been reduced to a gray existence of messy confusion — broken belief, crazy hope, desperate philosophy. A man of fragments but still an artist, he assembles a collage of scenes of life with and without Alba, recollections of his eccentric Sicilian–American family, encounters with well meaning friends, daily attempts at resuming his former life, and metaphysical railings against any deity capable of destroying what it has created. In Renato After Alba, the deepest sorrow is not merely lacerating, outrageous, heart-rending, and tragic, but also for someone so completely human as the enduring Renato, touchingly comic. And miraculously beautiful in its astonishment.