Paint It Black

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"A dark, crooked beauty that fulfills all the promise of White Oleander and confirms that Janet Fitch is an artist of the very highest order."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

Josie Tyrell, art model, runaway, and denizen of LA's rock scene finds a chance at real love with Michael Faraday, a Harvard dropout and son of a renowned pianist. But when she receives a call from the coroner, asking her to identify her lover's body, her bright dreams all ...

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"A dark, crooked beauty that fulfills all the promise of White Oleander and confirms that Janet Fitch is an artist of the very highest order."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

Josie Tyrell, art model, runaway, and denizen of LA's rock scene finds a chance at real love with Michael Faraday, a Harvard dropout and son of a renowned pianist. But when she receives a call from the coroner, asking her to identify her lover's body, her bright dreams all turn to black.

As Josie struggles to understand Michael's death and to hold onto the world they shared, she is both attracted to and repelled by his pianist mother, Meredith, who blames Josie for her son's torment. Soon the two women are drawn into a twisted relationship that reflects equal parts distrust and blind need.

With the luxurious prose and fever pitch intensity that are her hallmarks, Janet Fitch weaves a spellbinding tale of love, betrayal, and the possibility of transcendence.

"Lushly written, dramatically plotted. . . Fitch's Los Angeles is so real it breathes." -Atlantic Monthly

"There is nothing less than a stellar sentence in this novel. Fitch's emotional honesty recalls the work of Joyce Carol Oates, her strychnine sentences the prose of Paula Fox." -Cleveland Plain Dealer

"A page-turning psychodrama. . . . Fitch's prose penetrates the inner lives of [her characters] with immediacy and bite." -Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Fitch wonderfully captures the abrasive appeal of punk music, the bohemian, sometimes squalid lifestyle, the performers, the drugs, the alienation. This is crackling fresh stuff you don't read every day." -USA Today

"In dysfunctional family narratives, Fitch is to fiction what Eugene O'Neill is to drama." -Chicago Sun-Times

"Riveting. . . . An uncommonly accomplished page-turner." -Elle

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Editorial Reviews

Chris Bohjalian
As she did with White Oleander, Fitch has given us a courageous and interesting young woman who handles the bad cards she has been dealt with grace and resolve. No one, not even Cinderella, knows better than Josie Tyrell that life isn't fair -- and no one, despite some very long odds, seems more likely to transcend the role of victim and succeed with or without her fairy-tale prince.
— The Washington Post
Library Journal
Beauty and its pretenders prowl around the edges of Fitch's long-awaited second novel. Just as she did so masterfully in White Oleander, Fitch portrays the world of a young woman who is searching for a way to live after being dealt an incredibly lousy hand. Opting for the antithesis of beauty, Josie Tyrell exists within the punk club scene of 1980s Los Angeles, and, unfortunately, she finds familiar terrain in that subculture's harshness and brutal sexuality. Not until she meets Michael Faraday, a child of affluence and privilege, does Josie know that there is such a thing as true beauty in the world. He teaches her about the beauty of the night sky; of music, art, and poetry. But his obsession becomes his undoing as he cannot find enough of this transcendent beauty to protect him from his demons. Giving in to the inescapable lure of his family's ghosts, he commits suicide. Michael was the sole source of light for Josie and his tortured, tortuous mother: now both women engage in a dangerous struggle to survive in a world of darkness. As Josie unravels the story of Michael's despair, she becomes able to move from self-destruction to self-determination. Suspenseful, compelling, and superbly crafted, this work shows Fitch once again taking the art of writing to its highest level. Highly recommended for all contemporary fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/06.]-Susanne Wells, P.L. of Cincinnati and Hamilton Cty. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Bereavement, alienation and survivor's anger are the legacy bequeathed to the stunned protagonist of Californian Fitch's somber second novel. Josie Tyrell is a 20-year-old artist's model, sometime-actress and substance-abuser whose already chaotic life in L.A.'s underground artistic environs is further unsettled when she's notified that her boyfriend, Michael Faraday, has killed himself in a rundown motel. As she did in her Oprah-selected White Oleander (1999), Fitch structures this as a contest between two determined women: embittered Josie (who's intent on learning why her rapturous life with Michael, a struggling artist, wasn't enough for him), and Michael's mother, Meredith Loewy, a celebrated concert pianist and smothering matriarch whose attitude toward Josie vacillates between homicidal resentment and almost sisterly empathy. This backward-and-forward momentum at least varies Fitch's numbing concentration on Josie's emotional outrage, as does a subplot involving an independent movie in production (whose cluelessly smug director envisions it as "Bergman meets Hitchcock in Antonioni's unmade bed"), a preening sex machine who calls himself Nick Nitro and a handsome young actor who worms his way into Josie's bed without ever eliciting a response from her. But the changing relationship of Meredith and Josie is central, and the story almost catches fire as Fitch peels away successive layers of pretense to reveal each woman's hidden story (Meredith's history of losing other loved ones before Michael, Josie's uncomfortable memories of her white-trash family and sexually threatening older brother). Yet it wallows in self-pity and indignation, even in the climactic pages, where Josiebelieves she knows Meredith's real secret, returns to that motel and acknowledges the truth about Michael, which she has unsuccessfully repressed: "He loved me, but he hated himself more."Vivid writing here and there, but Josie is a dull character, and the story is a real downer.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316113236
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 9/18/2006
  • Pages: 387

Meet the Author

Janet Fitch's first novel, White Oleander, a #1 bestseller and Oprah's Book Club selection, has been translated into 24 languages and was made into a feature film. A native of Los Angeles, Fitch currently teaches fiction writing in the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California.

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Read an Excerpt

Paint It Black

A Novel
By Janet Fitch


Copyright © 2006 Janet Fitch
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-18274-5

Chapter One


Cold numbed the tip of Josie Tyrell's nose and her ass, just outside the reach of the studio space heater. Her leg had fallen asleep. She twisted her slight torso, enough to release tension, but not enough to disturb the painter working across the room in his paint-spotted Mao suit, his hair in a waist-length braid. Henry Ko wasn't painting well today. He had to stop every few minutes to wipe his eyes on the back of his hand, while Double Fantasy circled around on the studio stereo. Everyone was playing it now. John Lennon had just been shot in New York, and wherever Josie went, people were playing the same fucking Beatles songs until you wanted to throw up. At least Double Fantasy had Yoko Ono.

On the cover that leaned against the dirty couch, John and Yoko pressed together for a kiss they would never finish. People were always trashing Yoko Ono, blaming her for breaking up the Beatles, but Josie knew they were just jealous that John preferred Yoko to some bloated megaband. Nobody ever really loved a lover. Because love was a private party, and nobody got on the guest list. She liked the pictures of Yoko and John in their white bed, their frizzy hippie hair. They'd retreated to the country with two passports only. Fromthe outside it looked like death. People could pound the walls all they wanted, but they'd never find the door. Nobody could guess at the gardens inside.

Out the long windows of Henry Ko's studio, the hills and shacks of Echo Park tumbled toward Sunset Boulevard like a child's bedspread scattered with toys. Bare winter jacarandas broke the view with their angular arms, round pods hanging from their branch wrists like castanets. Henry kept crying about John Lennon. Josie felt worse about Darby Crash. Darby had just killed himself in an act of desperate theater, a gesture swamped by the Beatle 's death like a raft in the backwash of a battleship. But at least she'd known him, with his shyness, his broken-toothed smile. She'd hung with him at the Masque, at the Fuckhouse, and on Carondelet. He hadn't been a natural performer, he had to get wasted, cramming anything he could swallow into his mouth, then played shows so intense that they hurt you to watch, made you feel like a creepy voyeur. Darby just needed people to notice him, someone to care. All their friends had gone to the funeral, everybody but her. His death was so horribly unnecessary, such a stupid stunt, acted out by someone so sad and fucked up he would kill himself out of a need to be noticed. Josie thought it was repulsive to treat it like a party. And then the Beatle took it all away anyway.

"But he wanted it that way," Pen said. She'd covered it for Puke magazine, saying who'd been there, like it was an afterparty.

At least they'd known him. Whereas look at Henry. Getting all teary-eyed over John Lennon whom he'd never even met. Huge crowds converged last weekend in Griffith Park to mourn the lost Beatle. They didn't go, she and Pen and their friends, you could just tell it was going to be some overaged love-in, hippie beads and "Give Peace a Chance." When anybody could tell, nobody was ever going to give fucking peace a chance. Nobody was going back to Woodstock anytime soon.

But she was sure old Henry'd showed up with the other granolaheads, lit incense and rang finger cymbals and blew some pot, no doubt, in John's memory. Om rama rama. Did John Lennon really want all that? Was that what he was about? From what she'd heard, the guy'd had some wit and brains-did he really want to be the dead guy of the hour, like a melting centerpiece?

Finally, the artist stepped away from his easel, sighing. "What say, Jo-say. Pack it in?"

She unfurled her legs, felt the blood rush back, that tingle and burn, stretching fragile shoulders, their delicate bones clearly visible, small breasts with their dark nipples, the black triangle that contrasted with her unlikely bleached hair, the roots coming in dark. She put her clothes back on-a vintage dress she 'd traded for a domino bracelet, torn leggings-and worked her feet into spikeheeled pumps from Goodwill. As Henry cleaned his brushes, she touched up her bloodred lipstick, then joined him on the couch, orange velvet edged in brown dirt. He rolled a joint, special dope he called "The Spider"-brown turds of buds his friends in Hawaii sent him. Old hippies got so into their pot. She didn't mind sharing, but you didn't have to make a cult out of it.

As they smoked, Henry went on about John Lennon, how he couldn't believe he was dead, like the guy was some fucking saint. "He'd finally found himself," he kept saying. "That cat had just finally worked it out."

She toked along with him, knee to knee, and thought about the guy who shot Lennon. Shot by a desperate fan. On the news, fans were always desperate. Got his signature and then shot him down. The saddest thing about it was that she wasn't more shocked. To Josie, it just seemed part of the way things were heading, Ronald Reagan, greedheads running everything. Killing John Lennon seemed like just mopping up. Thirty thousand people missing in El Salvador, those nuns, and everybody in America was worried about who shot JR.

She and Henry leaned back against the couch. The Spider, she had to admit, was major deluxe. Henry turned his head slowly, keeping it supported on the couch back, looking at her with his small pot-reddened eyes that always smiled, even if he was angry or sad. He smelled of some weird liniment he brewed himself for nursing his tai chi injuries, roots and licorice and some kind of bugs. He put his hand on her knee. "Jo-say, you still with that guy, that Harvard cat?"

His hand on her knee. Henry Ko was like thirty-five, what was she supposed to do with an old guy like that? "Michael. Yeah, we 're still together." At least she hoped they were. Maybe he was back. In fact, he might be home right now, waiting for her. Suddenly, she had to go. She put her child-sized hand on top of the artist's turpentinedry one. "But I'll let you know if we break up, Henry, I swear."

She drove back to Lemoyne in her rattly Ford Falcon, a powder blue relic with band stickers on the trunk-X, Germs, Cramps. It was normally a three-minute drive, but she hit a line of cars with their lights on. Why were they going so slow? Maybe another John Lennon thing. She honked, wove, and passed until she got to the front and saw it was a hearse. Mortified, she turned off onto a side street and stopped, red-faced. How was she supposed to know-a line of cars crawling along with their lights on? Some days it felt like her sister Luanne had just dropped her off at MacArthur Park day before yesterday.

She drove the rest of the way under the speed limit, parked in front of her house, took the mail from her mailbox, and pulled the noose on the gate. Careful in her high heels, she descended the rickety steps to the little cabin behind. Nothing more than a shack, but they loved it back here, the giant birds-of-paradise netted with morning glories, so private they didn't need curtains. She opened the door, threw her key in the red bowl, and called out, "Hey, Michael?"

Silence. The empty chairs, the paintings, the wooden-bead curtain between the main room and the kitchen. The only sounds came in through the open window, that overlooked the steady traffic on the 2 and the 5. It had been five days since he'd stood there, in the kitchen doorway, beads pushed aside, grinding coffee with his brass Turkish grinder shaped like a tube. Telling her he was going away. She'd been getting dressed for a booking in Northridge. "I'm going up to Meredith's for a few days," he'd said. His mother was gone, off on tour in Uruguay or Paraguay and good fucking riddance.

She'd stopped in the hall, finishing her lipstick, accurate even without a mirror. "What for?"

"It's a project I've been thinking about," he said, grinding. "I need time to concentrate." Casual, like it was nothing.

And she'd stared, trying to understand what he was really saying. They'd never been separated, not even when they fought. "Since when do I bother you when you're working?"

"I thought you'd be glad that I'm working at all," he said. She was glad, but why would he think he had to leave?

He kept cranking the brass arm of the mill, standing in the kitchen doorway in his baggy jeans and bare feet with their long Greek toes. "I need the space, Josie. Try to understand."

"But you always painted fine here." It was true, the shack was small. It was hard for him to paint anything even the size of the blind Merediths. And his mother's house was standing there, empty, up on the hill. "What if I come with you?"

He set the grinder down then and put his arms around her, tight. Kissed her. "I'll be working. You know how I get. Trust me, it's better this way." She held on to him, her eyes closed, drinking in his smell, pine and moss and some peculiar chemistry of his own, that she craved the way an addict craved freebase. She could lick him like candy. He held her for the longest time, crushing her to him, his scratchy beard.

She missed him like fire. She threw the mail in the bowl on the orange footlocker where the phone sat silent. She 'd called him twice already, but he hadn't answered-he'd never answered a phone as long as she 'd known him. But if he didn't come home soon, she was going up there, she didn't care how much he needed his space. Screw that. Three days was one thing, but a week was a separation. She'd barely managed to stay away this long, doing her best to keep busy-book extra sittings, going with Pen to see the Weirdos at the Hong Kong Café, a party on Carondelet. Maybe it looked like she was living it up, but all she was doing was waiting for him. What was he painting that he couldn't paint here? Or was he just dumping her? "Hey, fuck him and his brother too," Pen had said when she'd worried aloud at the Weirdos show. "This is great, just like the old days. Carpe fucking diem."

It felt strange to be alone in the little house, in the tranquillity of the afternoon. This was the first time she'd ever lived alone. She straightened the pillows on the couch, looked through the mail, put on the Clash, Sandinista!, sat down and got up. She couldn't settle anywhere. The house seemed so empty, her presence didn't alter its emptiness. At home in Bakersfield, she'd shared a room with Luanne and Corrine, and on Carondelet, she'd lived with Pen and Shirley and Paul. Later in the Fuckhouse, it was half of punk Hollywood. Now she was alone, her only company the paintings and drawings he'd done, furniture they'd salvaged, collections they'd accumulated, toys and hats and flatirons. Without him, it took on the quality of a stage set where the actors hadn't yet come on. She sat on the blue couch and leafed through an art magazine. A man making paintings using smashed plates. They'd seen his show at the county art museum. She'd liked the big, heavy-textured works better than Michael had, their confidence, their bold beauty. "Shtick," he'd said. "Ya gotta have a gimmick." Always so critical, he hated everything artists were doing now. He only liked Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud, who painted like bloodhounds on the scent of human imperfection. And his beloved Schiele.

Why couldn't he sleep here and paint there? Other artists had studios. If it was too small for him, he could at least come home at night. She was afraid it was just an excuse. That he 'd decided, finally, he didn't want to be with her anymore. She yearned to call him, but hated the sound of the phone ringing, ringing, knowing that he might be standing right there, not picking up, knowing it was her.

She sat in his chair by the window, overlooking the hills, Echo Park, Silverlake, and beyond: the Hollywood sign, Griffith Park. The observatory's green copper domes stood out perfectly clear against the pale blue winter sky. She loved to sit in this chair with him, her arms around his neck, drinking his smell. She pressed her face to the waffled coarseness of the chair back, trying to smell it, her eyelashes fluttering against the skin of her cheek. Catching then losing it. Still stoned from the Spider, she shuffled back into the kitchen, drank a glass of milk standing up at the sink, peeled a finger-sized banana. She tried not to look at the wooden breakfast nook with its cutout hearts, where they ate their meals, and the painting that hung there, her at the old stove, light from the kitchen window pouring over her. When he was the one who did all the cooking. She couldn't do more than heat soup from a can.

She went into the bedroom and lay on the bed, the fragrant linens that still smelled of their last lovemaking, their painting of Montmartre on all the four walls. She kicked off her shoes and crawled under the covers, white on white in the colorless light. It was almost Christmas. She needed to finish making his shirt, with the stripes cut horizontally, to make it unusual. Green to match his eyes. Maybe she would find him some sheet music at one of those little places on Hollywood Boulevard, dirty Twenties blues, all new jelly roll and cakewalking babies from home. She could decorate the house in paper snowflakes, hang them from the ceiling, thick as leaves. How surprised he'd be when he came through the door and saw them. Of course he'd be back. Just another day or two.

She was thinking about snowflakes when the phone rang in the living room. Flinging herself out of bed so fast her head reeled, she got to the phone and grabbed it before the third ring. "Michael, thank God, I-"

"Excuse me, this is Inspector Brooks ..." Some government fuckhead.

"I'm from the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office. To whom am I speaking, please?"

Fuck. Luanne. The crank. The last time she'd seen her sister, she'd been down to ninety pounds. Though it could be Jimmy. Tommy. Any of them. "This is Josephine Tyrell. What happened?" "Your phone number was found on a motel registration. We're in the process of running fingerprints, but tell me, has there been someone missing?"

"I don't think so," she said. She heard the shuffling of papers. "White male. Registered as Oscar Wilde."

All she heard was the roar of blood in her ears.

"Miss Tyrell?" She could barely hold the phone. All the strength had gone out of her arms.

"Do you have any idea who this person might be?" said the voice on the other end, as if nothing had changed.

"Yes," she said. "No." She sat down on the furry couch before she fell. "I don't ..."

"This person you're thinking of, how old is he?" She searched for her voice. "Twenty-two." "Height?"

"About six feet," she whispered. "Weight?"

She didn't know his weight. They'd never had a scale. "Skinny." "Eye color?"

"Green." Please, let him say brown. "Scars or tattoos?"

She thought of his body. She ran her mind over it like fingers. "A scar, on his right hand. Between the thumb and first finger." She rubbed her face, trying not to drop the phone, trying to listen through the roaring static in her head. "A mole, on the right side of his rib cage." An artist's model, her body memory never failed. It worked independently of her mind, which had shut off. It couldn't be. This was a Tyrell call, speed contest, stabbing, shoot-out. An OD at the Fuckhouse.

There was a pause. "Is there someone who can come with you? We'll need to see you downtown."

Josie stood on the sidewalk holding herself together with both arms, as if her guts would spill out onto the concrete if she let go, watching for Pen's red Impala. Her friend slammed to a stop in front of the house, her purple hair a flag in that old convertible. She threw open the side door. "I got here as fast as I could. Oh, Josie, don't think anything yet. It could be anyone."

She was still closing the door as Pen peeled out. It was deep into rush hour. They skipped the freeway and took Riverside Drive, the back way along the river, past the Brewery where she 'd just modeled for Tim Delauney the week before last. Don't think anything. It could be anyone. She hoped it fucking was. Anyone else.

Macy to Mission, the foot of the concrete mountain that was LA County General. The coroner's office wasn't up at the hospital, it was down at the bottom, with the trucks and light industrial, a boxy two-story government building, the lettering painted right on the side of the building, LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CORONER, medical examiner, forensic laboratories, public services.

Pen left the Impala parked sideways across two spaces and they dashed into the foyer, all brown marble and beige linoleum and patched acoustic ceiling, like the lobby in a building full of cheap dentists. At the counter, a heavy black woman looked them up and down, Pen's purple hair and black lipstick, Josie's punked-out bleach job, her yellow fake fur. Like they were a sideshow act.


Excerpted from Paint It Black by Janet Fitch Copyright © 2006 by Janet Fitch. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 89 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 89 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2009

    Interesting Conflicted Characters, but Oh Did This Story Drag!

    From reading previous reader reviews, it seems people either loved the book or hated it. I fall somewhere in between. The main characters were interesting, conflicted, and--especially with regard to Josie and Meredith--presented at great contrast to one another. However, I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it were about 100 pages shorter. In real life when someone dies, those closest to the person suffer for a long time--months, often years--with little relief. I understand that. And since this novel took place over a period of only about two months from the time Josie first learns of her boyfriend Michael's suicide, it is only natural that both Josie and Michael's mother, Meredith, would be mourning throughout, but it is hard to make that work in a book and keep the reader interested. <BR/><BR/>That being said, there were some excellent scenes between Josie and Meredith which created great intensity and conflict in the story. Meredith constantly plays on Josie's sympathy only to use that sympathy as a ploy to get something she wants. Such as asking to see where Josie and her son lived, then using that knowledge to ransack Josie's home and take everthing that she and Michael once shared. For this reason, I kept waiting to find out some devious hidden reason for why Meredith befriends her again offering to take her to Europe with her, but that part of the story just dropped away. Getting back to the ransacked home, I also felt Josie's actions were implausible. Why didn't she call the police? Sure, it is explained away that she did not like the police, which is not so surprising with her heavy substance abuse problems--but, come on now! We're talking breaking and entering and robbery of all all the stuff that made up her life with the man she supposedly so desperately loved! <BR/><BR/>Like so many of us, when we are going through a difficult period, we often look for some kind of sign, and Josie, between drug and alcoholic hazes, keeps on doing that again and again. (What the recurring coyote image was supposed to mean is anyone's guess.) She believes she gets a sign out of something she finds at the end of the book, but it wasn't much--anything really--to go on. No matter. It helps her to get some closure, which after more than 400 long drawn-out pages made me just glad to see it come to an end. Just wrap a bunch of enigmatic thoughts and emotions in some deep French girl references, and let the reader make of it what she will. I was so hoping for Josie's character to grow some, but even as she attempts to rescue another forgotten girl at the end, I found it impossible to forget that she was still driving back to L.A. with drugs in her purse.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2007

    Brutally Real

    With intense imagery and often painful scenes, Janet Fitch has painted a masterpiece. You may not like it's graphic nature and it's punk characters, but if you know the rock scene and have lived through hard times you will understand it. It is beautifully put together by some one who knows the true nature of words. For me, it has been the most interesting book I have read since her debut novel, White Oleander.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2008

    Paint It Black: A Short Review

    Paint It Black: A Short Review of Janet Fitch's Novel Having read and enjoyed White Oleander by Janet Fitch I suspected that her novel, Paint It Black 'Back Bay Books, Little, Brown & Company' would be a good read also. I was correct. I am reading slower than I used to. Perhaps it is the underlining and the marginal notes slowing me down, but I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. I've always loved stories about art, artists, musicians, and writers, and maybe that's why I was attracted to this story of Josie Tyrell, and the tragedies, loves, and nemeses of her life. The novel is rich in allusions, intense in conflict, and the author's prose and diction is rich. The novel is a portrait of Los Angeles and its bohemian rock music, film, and art scene. It is also a study of grief 'over a suicide' of artists, creativity, and their quests for perfection of dreams and dreamers of the heavy hand of guilt of beauty, love, loss, and sadness and of how people live in and are supported by the music they listen to. Fitch has amazing and intense insights into the human psyche and heart. I've tried to analyze why this novel affected me so deeply. Maybe it's because I've known nude models like Josie and writers, artists, and musicians like Michael. Perhaps it's because, like Michael, I am often haunted, and have my own personal demons, demons that refuse to be exorcised. Fitch is a brilliant and insightful writer. Her writing deserves our attention. Though there many more I could have selected, here are some of my favorite quotations from Paint it Black: 'Nobody ever really loved a lover. Because love was a private party, and nobody got on the guest list.' (1' )[E]ven lies could be true, if you knew how to listen.' (27) She just kept talking, like a drunk arguing with ghosts . . .(32) How right that the body changed over time, becoming a gallery of scars, a canvass of experience, a testament to life and one's capacity to endure it.' (67)The stupid things you say in the rain, that can't ever be washed away.' (81) Pen had no sense that someone might want to keep her private life private. Privacy wasn't even a concept. She'd never closed a bathroom door in her life.' (83)Each man kills the thing he loves'--Oscar Wilde 'This is repeated many times in the novel and has to be a theme'. 'It was the way the world really ran, in little signs and signals.' (160) Girls were born knowing how destructive the truth could be.' (236) Sometimes things that happened were just too solid to move, like some huge bookcase or black breakfront that had dug its legs into the floor over the years.' (272) That kind of tenderness couldn't be permitted to last. Nothing that beautiful could live long. It wasn't allowed. You only got a taste . . . then you paid for it the rest of your life. Like the guy chained to rock, who stole fire . . . You paid for every second of beauty you managed to steal.' (278) You gave things away you couldn't afford to lose. Private things. You showed yourself and you couldn't take it back.' (306) Insomnia and the hulls of dead dreams blowing across the floor of the empty rooms like dry leaves.' (337) It was a mistake you could never recover from.' (351) Her soul' A moldy old scrap only fit throwing away, not even the devil would take it on consignment.' (361) I love the desert, and I love this quotation Fitch has' '[S]he understood people who'd choose to live like that, isolated in a dry hard terrain, so far from comfort . . . Hard people, whose own company was even more than they could stomach.' (378) And here: '[T]he Arabs invented zero, because they were a desert people, at home with absence. . . This was his landscape, bitter cold, populated only by rocks and strange leafless trees, no softness or mercy, no touch of green.' (411)

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2006

    Beautifully Written

    Like White Oleander, this book was written with such vivid description that you feel as though you know the characters and have visited the places she writes about. This book does leave you feeling heavy but I couldn¿t put it down. I highly recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2006

    A fascinating relationship drama

    Michael Faraday hated college so he left Harvard without a diploma to become an artist. He became a painter with growing accolades in Los Angeles. As his fame grew, his dark side also grew until by 1981 he committed suicide.---------------- Art model Josie Tyrell was falling in love with Michael, but could never get him to fully commit his heart and soul to her because of his deep ties to his famous mother, concert pianist Meredith Loewy. Each woman holds the other culpable for why Michael killed himself. Meredith blames the white trash Josie on the other hand Josie blames the aloof affluent Michael. However, ironically each begins to find solace with one another as they mourn the loss of the cherished one they both loved.--------------- PAINT IT BLACK is a fascinating relationship drama as the two women compete for the affection of Michael until he kills himself and they turn to one another for solace. Janet Fitch gets inside the souls of her triangle as the audience sees what drives Michael to suicide, why his mother lives in a sterile cold existence and how Josie is obsessed to overcome her trashy roots. Fans of contemporary character studies will enjoy Ms. Fitch¿s strong look at how relationships change when a pivotal life event (in this case death) occurs.------------- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Rough-around-the-edges Josie Tyrell loses the love of her life,

    Rough-around-the-edges Josie Tyrell loses the love of her life, and what follows are pages and pages…and then some more pages, of Josie trying to understand the tragedy and reclaim her life. 
    In the 418-page book that I read, I would estimate that there are less than 40 pages of things actually happening, including conversation. The writing is brilliant, and Fitch certainly has a way with words, but there was just too much introspection in this book to keep me interested. Credit to the author for being able to describe Josie’s emotional tar pit so vividly for such a large part of this novel, but after a bit I was left yearning for something to happen. 
    White Oleander is one of the best books that I have ever read. If, like me, reading that book makes you want to read this book, I caution you:  the only thing these two books have in common is the writing style. You could love this book - you could get sucked in to Josie’s mind and her struggles; you could be enchanted by the dirty punk scene; you could feel with Josie. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t, as much as I worked at it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2014


    There is no holding back the raw emotions of death of those left behind. Wonderfully written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2014

    Loved it.

    Purchased this book not expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. Can be dark at times, going into Josie's thoughts, and not knowing if she will take her own life. All said and done, I really enjoyed Paint it Black.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2012


    I love this book. Ive read it multiple times and the same can be said for white oleander. I love janet fitchs writing style and i am always checking to see if shes writing another book, shes my favorite author by far.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

    First white, now black and I'm beyond blue

    A novel for a brilliantly sunshiny day and a night of your favorite sitcom. You'll need it to counter this utterly depressing work that leaves you exhausted. If you're a fan of the melodramatic (as I am) it's right up your alley.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2011


    This is my favorite book ever written! Janet Fitch is an amazing author, I love her work!

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  • Posted April 13, 2011


    Love love loved this! Couldn't put it down. Janet Fitch is a very skilled writer, very descriptive and thorough. The pictures she paints for the reader are vivid, and the emotion is real. I am eager to read more by her...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 20, 2011

    Captures the reality of the relationship

    Anyone who has been romantically involved with an artist and dealt with depression or other psychological abnormalities will love this book. Especially if it happens to fit the scene, young punk rocker trying to decide what is valuable and what is trivial; and the most important question, how much of them are you responsible for?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Dark story about a suicide

    Interestingly enough, this is both a page-turner and a definite downer. Don't read it if you are feeling depressed.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    didn't disappoint!

    I was a huge fan of Janet Fitch after reading White Oleander, so if you enjoyed that book, this one will most likely appeal to you as well. It is equally dark and forlorn, and a bit depressing in subject, but it was captivating due to the characters. I found myself pondering the book in between readings, as it gives a lot of food for thought. Janet Fitch has a very dramatic writing style, some people have said too much so, but I really appreciate the detail she puts into describing the scenes and characters; it almost feels as if you can smell what they smell and taste what they taste. The dramatic start which finds Josie learning about her boyfriend's suicide pretty much sets the tone for the entire book, but the great thing about it is that you really learn about their relationship over the course of the novel, and the realization of the devastation to the reader doesn't fully sink in until their characters are completely unfolded before us. if you are looking for a happy ending, this may not be your read, which is pretty obvious from the beginning. but it certainly doesn't disappoint in drama or emotion. I thought it was touching, though twisted, and the author isn't afraid to create flawed characters who come to life beautifully through description.

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  • Posted May 8, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    An interesting perspective on tragedy that I'd never imagined

    I purchased this audio book after having read White Oleander by the same author. I put it in and, at first, I was taken back by the swearing and the dark beginning. I began to wonder if I'd become so much of a mother and a wife that I couldn't see myself enjoying the book. I decided that I hadn't so I kept listening while I worked on some mindless computer work. After a while I was completely intrigued with the subject and how the characters dealt with the tragedy presented to them.
    I began to really see the void that suicide leaves in the lives of survivors. I've never thought much about suicide because I was never affected by it. This was a very thought provoking and rawly emotional story. The other subject that hung in the air was love. Not just any love, the love of a soul mate. I could actually feel the pain in the story because of the fantasticly desccriptive art of Janet Fitch.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    A gorgeous tragedy

    Janet Fitch's "Paint It Black" is the dark but beautifully told story of Josie, a Los Angeles art model from the wrong side of the tracks, and her fated relationship with Michael, a wealthy heir with burdensome genius. Fitch's use of language, imagery, and elements of popular culture weave a powerful and moving tapestry of a life enmeshed in sex, drugs, rock and roll, grief, and heartbreak, and its collision with the upper echalante, which hides a million skeletons in its closet.

    "Paint It Black" is not a book for the non-cerebral reader, nor is it a book that will leave you with a hopeful or happy feeling once you reach its end. Rather, it is a case study in the grief-catalyzed total upheaval of a life and how we all try to put the pieces back together. Nevertheless, anyone who appreciates well-written literature will enjoy this book. Fitch is a master of character development and really makes the reader feel the rawness of Josie's experiences.

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  • Posted August 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    good book

    i like the setting: drugs, sex, rock n roll, in hollywood. great book!

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  • Posted June 21, 2009

    Still don't really know the point...

    This book starts out interesting and then quickly dies off. I finished it hoping I'd eventually find the point or a climax, but, in the end, I was just dissapointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2009


    Paint It Black was completely different than White Oleander. In my opinion, the two books were the exact opposite.
    However, that only made Paint It Black that much better. This book proved that Janet Fitch could be incredibly versatile. I thought that Josie was such a realistic character, and I enjoyed being in her position and being with her for a short period of time.
    Also, the love between Josie and Michael was so original.
    Everyone should really give Paint It Black a try; it is a good read.

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