Preparatory Notes for Future Masterpieces

  A Novel by Maceo Montoya

University of Nevada Press, 2021

The unnamed narrator of Preparatory Notes for Future Masterpieces has one driving goal: to paint masterful works of art. His plans include a move to Paris to join the ranks of his artistic hero, Gustave Courbet — except it’s 1943, and he’s stuck in the backwoods of New Mexico. He is penniless and prone to epileptic fits, and, if his mother’s judgment is to be trusted, certifiably crazy. Oh, and he never actually draws or paints: rather, he methodically writes longhand descriptions of the masterpieces he plans to create as soon as the conditions are right.


As our narrator battles a world that is unkind to “starving artists,” he runs into other tormented twentieth-century artists, writers, and activists with ambitions to match his own: a young itinerant preacher (Reies López Tijerina); the “greatest insane artist” (Martín Ramirez); and Oscar Zeta Acosta who is hellbent on self-destruction. Will the fortuitous encounters with these prophetic figures result in his own genius being recognized? Or will his uncompromising nature consign him to what he fears most?

Selected Praise

San Francisco Chronicle's "15 Best Books of 2021"

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"...delightful postmodern illustrated novel.... Both entertaining and provocative, this [Preparatory Notes for Future Masterpieces] lampoons with a gentle touch."


- Publishers Weekly

"It is a wonderfully strange, hilarious, and heartbreaking illustrated novel about a fictionalized Mexican American artist’s dream to become a great painter. Montoya packs a powerful, satirical punch as he blends the surreal journey of one man with historical events and people to produce a brilliantly rendered picaresque novel."


- Los Angeles Review of Books

"From an artistic and critical perspective, Montoya's varied output of art, literature, and criticism has helped further the Chicanx cause. Preparatory Notes for Future Masterpieces is a great example of what a multi-talented artist can do when they are not preoccupied by the constraints of the culture at large."


- Rain Taxi Review of Books

"Channeling the spirit of Candide, Montoya's use of humor, pathos, and satire to tell the story of a misunderstood artist clamoring for his place in posterity and his voice to be heard, had me laughing from beginning to end."


- Reyna Grande, author of The Distance Between Us

"Montoya has found a way to deftly combine his storytelling ability with his artistic prowess in this single body of work that shapeshifts as it reveals. Preparatory Notes For Future Masterpieces is a compelling, fun, and intriguing read for thinkers, cultural warriors, and lovers of great literature alike. What we are witnessing here is a writer who is quickly reaching the height of his mastery!"


- Tim Z. Hernandez, author of All They Will Call You

"This graphic novel is a very ambitious and successful contribution to the story of Latinx people in the U.S., with an emphasis on our struggles to make our art in this society... propulsive, candid, steamy, and full of life."


- Yxta Maya Murray, author of The World Doesn't Work That Way, but It Could


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