Painting Beyond Walls


Product Details

$28.00  $26.04
Milkweed Editions
Publish Date
5.8 X 9.1 X 1.3 inches | 1.7 pounds

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About the Author

David Rhodes is the author of Painting Beyond Walls. As a young man, he worked in fields, hospitals, and factories across Iowa. After receiving an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop in 1971, he published three novels in rapid succession: The Last Fair Deal Going Down (Atlantic/Little, Brown, 1972), The Easter House (Harper & Row, 1974), and Rock Island Line (Harper & Row, 1975). In 1976, a motorcycle accident left him paraplegic. He continued writing, but did not publish again until 2008, with his celebrated novel, Driftless. Several years later, a sequel, Jewelweed, was published to wide acclaim. After another decade, he returns to American letters with this extraordinary novel, his first to be set in the future. David Rhodes lives with his wife, Edna, in Iowa City.


Praise for Painting Beyond Walls
"An impressive and beautiful novel . . . Painting Beyond Walls joins Driftless and Jewelweed to shape the second half of an impressive career. Characters from his earlier novels appear prominently in this book, as does its setting, the Driftless Region of southwestern Wisconsin. . . . In his first book, The Last Fair Deal Going Down, Rhodes created a city beneath Des Moines, a sub-city. Before he enters it, the protagonist tells his sister, 'I'll write you a giant novel . . . a book that is the inside of me, a great, sprawling ironclad prodigy of emotion.' David Rhodes, a Midwestern treasure, has now written six such novels."--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Terrific . . . Fans of Rhodes will appreciate the return to fictional Words, Wisconsin, and the familiar cast of characters that populate the unincorporated village. They'll recognize Rhodes' voice, as singular and lyrical as ever, and his distinct style; often waxing profound for page after luxurious page before suddenly punching out a hilarious one-liner. Rhodes continues to explore the human condition in profound but unpretentious ways."--Madison

"David Rhodes, a Wisconsin resident, takes characters from his widely-praised novel Driftless and Jewelweed and imagines them into the future in Painting Beyond the Walls. In doing so, he reinvents the 'Midwestern pastoral' genre, confronting questions of science, technology, power, evolution and the effects of a rapidly changing society on a rural area."--Pioneer Press

"Rhodes' novels about the small, modest town of Words, Wisconsin, are in accord with the place-anchored, morally and spiritually inquisitive fiction of Kent Haruf and Marilynne Robinson even as this fourth installment, set in the very near future, takes a surprising turn. . . . Rhodes is rhapsodic in his descriptions and compassionate and wise in his observations, while his endearing, caring characters speak in peculiarly formal, even academic dialogue and the audacious plot veers into speculative territory and postulates . . . thought-provoking hope."--Booklist, starred review

"A thought-provoking meditation on human relationships at the cellular level as well as our relationship to Earth, the cosmos, and life itself. . . . Rhodes has a knack for writing acute psychological realism; these characters live and breathe, and by the time the novel ends we feel like we know them. Additionally, several story arcs reveal a humanistic, righteous indignation regarding the violence toward women so endemic to Western civilization, and characters frequently engage in thought-provoking discussions of everything from cellular science to sexual politics and world economies. The epilogue recalls Michel Houellebecq's The Elementary Particles, albeit much more optimistic. Although elements of the novel are adjacent to the near-future sci-fi writers like Kim Stanley Robinson, Rhodes is primarily concerned with the timeless human phenomena of love, loss, origins, family, and community."--Kirkus Reviews

"In his new novel, David Rhodes returns to the Midwest with this tale set in the near-future about humanity's relationship with each other, with nature, and with the self. Written in lyrical and melancholy prose, Rhodes once again proves why he is one of our best writers writing about our physical and metaphysical connection with each other and our environment."--Bennard Fajardo, Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, DC"David Rhodes's prose is as captivating as ever in Painting Beyond Walls. Not only are his characters masterfully drawn, but the obvious joy of language is a thrill to read. His words are so easy to get lost in that there is almost a disconnect when closing the book--one needs a few seconds to reattune to reality after spending time in Rhodes's world. It helps that his vision of the near future is extremely believable and though one doesn't necessarily want to be going through some of what he puts his characters through, there is no doubt that his world-building is spectacular."--Jesse Hassinger, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA"A new novel by David Rhodes is a cause for celebration! . . . -In Painting Beyond Walls, Rhodes deftly explores the importance of community and connectedness; the human condition, particularly the presence of evil in the world; and how wealth can be used to better the world. And, interestingly in this time when many deny the validity and importance of science in human life, he tackles that issue head on. It's not too much of a spoiler to say that the problems our world currently faces, such as climate change and overpopulation, find remedy in the world of this book through science . . . the complex characters, beautiful descriptions and a view of the future will challenge your understanding of science and where we are headed as a species. And then, like me, you may want to reread Driftless and Jewelweed to be reminded of the backstory of Painting Beyond Walls. Welcome back, David Rhodes!"--Sally Wizik Wills, Beagle and Wolf Books & Binder, Park Rapids, MN"Gus is a young research scientist who was raised in the Driftless region of southwest Wisconsin and has spent ten years away in college and working for research labs in Chicago. In a short period of time, he finds out that his job is discontinued, his love relationship is over, and his lease is ending. With all of his possessions in the trunk of a rental car, he returns to Wisconsin in the hopes of planning a new future. Gus is plagued by sexual desires that don't lead to satisfying relationships. He's trying to find answers by studying cell behavior to explain why he doesn't feel whole. He connects with old childhood friends and mentors, adapts a different philosophy, and then one day he discovers his perfect mate. But there's a price to pay if they'll be together, and you'll never see it coming. A cast of memorable characters are presented at a pleasant pace, interspersed with extra details to keep you immersed in the numerous directions that the novel takes. It speaks to family, friendship, community, and an endearing description of what mature love relationships can be. Rhodes was diagnosed with stage-four cancer in the midst of writing this book. The extra time it took to write it, along with the quality of the prose, made for an intriguing and satisfying read. A master storyteller."--Todd Miller, Arcadia Books, Spring Green, WI"David Rhodes is a writer who has helped sustain the appeal of literary fiction due to his unique style and lyrical narration. His characters are so believable they become members of our own community; we share their hopes and fears, their pain, and their joy. His previous novels (at least five) revealed a gift for understanding human nature well beyond his years and this latest book set a few years into our future (2027) is sterling. If you're a follower of Rhodes' career, you'll be delighted to know he has returned with a new story set in the Midwest. If you are not familiar with his work, this is a great way to get acquainted. You'll be glad you did."--Linda Bond, Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, WA"David Rhodes has a beautiful, almost mesmerizing way with words. The story unfolds at a human pace; with characters that are complex and compelling. I don't know if August got into my head or Rhodes put me into August's head; either way, I felt at one with August as he navigated his way through romances and friendships and the inevitable changes that have come to the small rural hometown to which he's returned after ten years in Chicago. . . . I'd gladly recommend this book to readers looking for immersive literary fiction! David Rhodes is a master storyteller."--Pat Rudebusch, Orinda Books, Orinda, CA
Praise for David Rhodes"'A new, hitherto unknown novelist swam into my ken, ' Floyd Dell wrote in his autobiography more than forty years ago, about a time back further still when Sherwood Anderson pressed a manuscript into his hands. American readers can now enjoy a similar shock of recognition by picking up David Rhodes."--New York Times Book Review"One of the best eyes in recent fiction belongs to the novelist David Rhodes. Rhodes' eye, like any fine novelist's, is accurate both about literal detail and about metaphorical equivalencies. The most important point, however, is that nothing in Rhodes' vision is secondhand."--John Gardner, from On Becoming a Novelist"A brilliant writer."--Cleveland Plain-Dealer"Wildly imaginative."--Saturday Review"Rhodes writes with both symphonic grandeur and down-to-earth humility."--BooklistPraise for Jewelweed"A generous ode to the spirit's indefatigable longing for love."--Minneapolis Star Tribune"A master of nuance, Rhodes picks up on those 'inaudible rhythms' that drive human actions."--Milwaukee Journal Sentinel"Emits frequent solar flares of surprise and wonder."--Cleveland Plain Dealer"An impressive and emotionally gratifying novel."--Library Journal"A rhapsodic, many-faceted novel of profound dilemmas, survival, and gratitude."--BooklistPraise for Driftless"The best work of fiction to come out of the Midwest in many years."--Chicago Tribune"A profound and enduring paean to rural America. Radiant in its prose and deep in its quiet understanding of human needs."--Milwaukee Journal Sentinel"Each of these stories glimmers."--New Yorker"Moves at a stately pace as it offers deep philosophy and meditative asides about life in Words, Wisconsin, in the Driftless zone -- which is to say, about life on earth."--NPR, "All Things Considered""A symphonic paean to the stillness that can be found in certain areas of the Midwest. The writing in Driftless is beautiful and surprising throughout, and it's this poetic pointillism that originally made Rhodes famous."--Minneapolis Star Tribune"Few books have the power to transport the way Driftless does, and it's Rhodes's eye for detail that we have to thank for it."--Time Out Chicago"A fast-moving story about small town life with characters that seem to have walked off the pages of Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology."--Wall Street Journal"Encompassing and incisive, comedic and profound, Driftless is a radiant novel of community and courage."--Booklist, 2008 Editor's Choice (starred)"A wry and generous book. Driftless shares a rhythm with the farming community it documents, and its reflective pace is well-suited to characters who are far more comfortable with hard work than words."--Christian Science Monitor, Best Novels of 2008"Rhodes' first novel in over 30 years is set in a rural area of Wisconsin so remote and forgotten that it's left off the map. Most of the residents have chosen to be isolated from the world around them and one another. Nevertheless, their concerns--the meaning of spirituality, family, love, and desire--are global and universal. The characters and their struggles come vibrantly alive."--Library Journal (starred)