The Viking Press, NY, 1982.
“The best 20th-century novel about an artist,” Peter Plagens in Art News Centennial Issue (November 2002)
The story of the artist, Dan Asher, esteemed once but now out of fashion, and the hunt of the private detective, Henry Tattersall, for a stolen Rembrandt painting. Set largely in the Los Angeles of the turbulent sixties, the novel teems with love and sex, crooks and peacenicks, a rage to live and a sprint to death. Asher’s collages are miniatures; Heart Payments is a large retrospective of his art, his life.
Praise for HEART PAYMENTS:
--[starred review] Goldberg’s collage-novel is an
exquisite work in which each bit, each piece, each person, springs to
life and is unforgettable.
--a compelling and moving story.
--The novel-as-collage is a risky proposition--usually
more distracting than evocative in its fragmented juxtaposition--but Goldberg
has two things going for him in this surprisingly cohesive assemblage.
First of all there’s the sharp, tart zest of his prose--which means
that almost every piece of the puzzle here is rewarding all by itself.
Second, and most important, there’s the fact that most of this book
is about Daniel Asher, a Los Angeles artist obsessed with the collage
form….The jig-saw puzzle is presented with just the right challenging,
teasing seductiveness; the ugly world of art-biz gamesmanship (the envy,
the humiliations) is vivid, scarred; and Goldberg’s unusual blend
of downbeat irony with open-throated romanticism delivers a large number
of unexpectedly affecting moments…like one of Asher’s small-scale
collages--oddly haunting overall and amusing or entrancing in many of
--The novel covers the period from 1966 to 1976, catching
at one and the same time the revolutionary fervor of the anti-Vietnam
demonstrations, the heavy overcast of Southern California decadence, and
the sleazy rapacity of the art underworld. In a nation coming apart the
two central characters represent something of a bulwark, throwbacks to
the code-hero of the thirties and forties, battered but possessed of a
solid core of integrity. Some of Goldberg’s best prose evokes the
spiritual loneliness of this angry and battered survivor….The juxtaposition
of California modishness, contemporary superficiality, the verities of
art and creativity, the poignancy of aging, the profundity of middle-aged
self evaluation make Heart Payments something more than an ordinary
chase thriller. It is a surprisingly haunting and profound meditation
--It is a demanding work, constantly jarring, but the plights
of artist and investigator, antagonists in effect, offer memorable humor
--Gerald Goldberg’s ingeniously written fiction revolves
around a Rembrandt painting that has been stolen from the Los Angeles
County Museum of Art. Artist Dan Asher is suspect number one in the mind
of private eye Henry Tattersall, “a 19th-century detective in a
21st-century megalopolis”…. As Tattersall sleuths around trying
to get the goods on the missing Rembrandt, there are wonderful conjurings
of art world crooks and their low deals at high prices. Heart Payments
is a fine deal of a novel.
--For those who were part of those heady days [the 60s],
Heart Payments may force a look past the easy memories to ones
with philosophical conflicts still unresolved. Yet Goldberg’s skill
will make the look itself pure pleasure. Like his character Asher, who
“relished remarkable things happening matter of factly,” Goldberg
has created a book to be savored in process and mourned at ending. Heart
Payments is a magical work of art.
--If the nature of modern life is fragmentation, the characteristic
art form is collage--the artist’s rearranging of the fragments so
that they fuse into something new, orderly, perhaps even beautiful. Such
is the strategy of this story of Dan Asher, a collage artist, whose fragmented
life is revealed to us, appropriately, in the form of a collage. The plot
hinges on a single mysterious event, the theft of a Rembrandt painting
[and Henry Tattersall, the private investigator called in to find it.]….It’s
in the wonderful linking of private eye and artist that the novel strikes
sparks (and illuminates the power and popularity of the figure of the
private eye, showing him to be a collage-artist, creating order and educing
motive out of the mysterious fragments of the violent world.) Asher and
Tattersall are kin--solitary and lonely--out of step with the rest of
society, but possessed of a deep sense of morality in their obsession
with creating order out of debris and finding a new path through the ruins.