Eugene Mirabelli's most recent work is Renato!, a book which combines three of his novels in one volume concerning Renato Stillamare, a large-hearted, flawed, loving, opinionated, philosophical painter. "A blazing magnum opus," is the way Publishers Weekly describes it. Here are other early reviews:
Distinguished reviewer Roberta Sillman says, "What a pleasure it is to revel in this work, which expresses enduring values in such an original way. Eugene Mirabelli, whom one reviewer described as being "of a certain era," has written a beautiful and ambitious novel that will not only resonate with his generation, but also with the young, and especially with those who love really good writing. He should be a national treasure, and we are lucky, indeed, to have his enchanting Renato!. —Arts Fuse
"Rivaling grand opera for passion and plot, Renato! is sure to delight readers who appreciate captivating storytelling."—Booklist, American Library Assn.
"Mirabelli has reinvented the peculiarly Italian, extravagantly melodramatic and often comic vision—the opera—in the novel form.… He is a master of montage, sudden narrative breaks, interwoven plots and themes.…This truly is a wise and comforting book, funny and sad, wonderfully intelligent…"—from the introduction by Douglas Glover
Renato! is "a bittersweet, beautiful story that…merits wide attention…[and] speaks wisely to life's truths."—Kirkus Reviews
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Renato! is remarkable equally for the dynamic fusion of its parts—a modernistic marriage of narrative forms—and for a story set amidst the confusions of modern life and richly imbued with love, philosophy, hilarity, food, sex, religion, complicated familial attachments, and a dash of magical realism. Renato's somewhat outlandish first-person narrative runs from an unlikely origin story to rebellious maturity and finally to searing intimations of mortality. His personality is creative, noble, jealous, generous, foolish, compassionate, witty, profound, selfish, and wonderfully charismatic. His language is colloquial and at times profane; his painterly eye for detail is precise and revealing; his metaphors apt and often hilarious; his heart vulnerable, and his suffering all too real. Renato! is a testament to struggle, failure and, despite all, a passionate embrace of life and belief in love. As the novelist and critic Douglas Glover remarks in his introduction to Renato!, it is as though Mirabelli has reverse-engineered the novel as that wonderfully extravagant and particularly Italian form—opera.
As noted above, Renato! combines three novels in one volume — The Goddess in Love with a Horse, Renato, the Painter, and Renato After Alba. Those last two prize-winning books are available in separate hardcover editions.
Renato Stillamare, the protagonist of Renato, the Painter, paints landscapes as if they were nudes, and nudes as if they were landscapes. One winter's night seventy years earlier in a suburb of Boston, he was found swaddled in a basket outside the front door of a large, resourceful, passionate, and somewhat rash Sicilian-American clan named Cavallù, which adopted him. He may be the best painter of his generation (he doesn't know anyone better), but his canvasses are no longer in demand, nor have they been for the twenty-five years since he last had a Newbury Street gallery show. After retiring from teaching at Copley College of Art, Renato has retreated to his studio, if retreat is the word, where he is furiously painting, painting, painting, determined to be rediscovered. Renato is a force of nature, a big-hearted, lusty, opinionated, and occasionally intemperate man of large appetites 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 ago, whose occasional wife (the love of his life) lives in a condo on the opposite bank of the Charles, and whose life is about to become much more complicated when the goth-bedecked daughter of a former student crashes at his loft with her little boy. The uproarious story of Renato's 70th year, which he unabashedly recounts with amazement and verve, is about extraordinary things simply happening to an ordinary man caught up in living life to the fullest. A funny, touching, even magical novel, Renato, the Painter is a splendid addition to the shelf of such literary classics as The Ginger Man and The Horse's Mouth.
“This generous, sprawling, fleshy novel of a life lived among lovers, friends, olives, wine, bread, and prosciutto, is a fresco of Sicilian-American-New England life. It is also an American story that shows just how a first generation of immigrants branch from village craftsmen to engineers and artists. Renato, the grumbling bohemian painter, is the genial pater of an unusual famiglia, who is still propelled by immigrant optimism in the age of computers. He is a not-quite-successful painter or husband who loves both painting and sex with greedy bonhommie until, as an old man, he finds his imperfect life quite adequate in midst of a motley nouveau family.” — Andrei Codrescu, critic and social commentator, author of whatever gets you through the night: a story of sheherezade and the arabian entertainments.
“In this portrait of an artist full of lust and rage, Eugene Mirabelli once again marries the realistic and romantic modes. Renato, the Painter offers us the intimate workings of an aging man at the height of his powers who fears that they will ebb; he and his women and paintings are vividly rendered: fierce, fine.” — Nicholas Delbanco, author of Lastingness: The Art of Old Age.
“A lively comic romp through the early high promise of the painter Renato, and his late-life desperation over the art world's non-recognition of his work. Age bends and fate twists this artist, but he carroes on with his 'perishable art and human love'—the indefatigable artist as his own work of art.” — William Kennedy