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The Painter: A Novel of Pursuit

                Stephen Denning

                iUniverse: 2000

What's it about?

The Painter is a tongue-in-cheek love story with a a first-person account of a young painter’s stay on the banks of the Potomac River, in the company of a sensuous young beauty.

It tells of the young artist’s struggles to keep his mind sharply focused on his quest for artistic expression, while his attractive companion pursues a somewhat different objective.

Amid the playful banter of casually ironic conversation, the story illuminates some of the subtler mysteries of erotic phenomena. The book is thus not simply entertaining titillation, but rather a dissection of the sensual experience into its separate elements.

This isn't a novel of sexual initiation, since the narrator is already a blasé veteran of the bedroom who's trying to put sex behind him. As the pace and complexity of April's amorous campaign expands, he tries to reconcile the apparent attractions with the desolation of the one-night stands of his campus career. As he begins to realize that April isn't the bimbo he anticipates, he's gradually persuaded that she may be the creative and thinking individual of his artistic aspirations. He's too sophisticated a linguist ever to utter a banal cliché about love, but in the end, even he has to admit he's dealing with something more substantial than a snack of sexual fast food.

For the first half of the book, April struggles to overcome forces of which she's only dimly aware. It's in the second half that she discovers the difficulties are related to several rivalrous and menacing female Oedipal figures. As the underlying structure of the situation gradually becomes apparent, her naive candor succeeds in outflanking his family-approved fiancée and his Gorgon-style mother. As in all happy fantasies of Oedipal victory, it turns out that the man was never in love with the rival women at all.

The book is full of lively one-liners and interesting aperçus on the nature of art, love and life, though the learning is worn lightly. In fact, the thoughts are dressed up in such a captivating fashion, they hardly seem like thoughts at all. While the novel is easy to read, it also illustrates what lies beyond a self-absorbed preoccupation with the quality of our nihilistic despair.

The book looks into the meaning of life and finds the magic of the re-enchantment of reality, and a renewed sense of aliveness and possibility.

What's it like?

    The Painter: A Novel of Pursuit has

    * the exuberance of Michael Frayn's The Trick of It; and Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City.
    * the craftsmanship of Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day;
    * the juxtaposition of the mundane and the intellectual as in Judy Goldstein’s The Mind-Body Problem

            The Painter: A Novel of Pursuit (iUniverse, October 2000)


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