Where The Dog Stars established Heller as a writer with a consistent, wickedly humorous voice, a formidable scene setter, and writer with philosophical underpinnings, this second novel shows those strengths fraying a bit. He’s adopting a voice here that isn’t always his own; he toys with the sentence structures of Hemingway and Raymond Carver, and the effect is a bit clumsy. However in the book’s second half he returns to vestiges of his first novel’s voice, and this is where his story becomes compelling.
A veduta is a highly detailed, usually large-scale painting of a cityscape or some other vista. This genre of landscape originated in Flanders, where artists such as Paul Bril painted vedute as early as the 16th century. As the itinerary of the Grand Tour became somewhat standardized, vedute of familiar scenes like the Roman Forum or the Grand Canal recalled early ventures to the Continent for aristocratic Englishmen. In the later 19th century, more personal impressions of cityscapes replaced the desire for topographical accuracy, which was satisfied instead by painted panoramas.

Ink paintings are done with a liquid that contains pigments and/or dyes and is used to color a surface to produce an image, text, or design. Ink is used for drawing with a pen, brush, or quill. Ink can be a complex medium, composed of solvents, pigments, dyes, resins, lubricants, solubilizers, surfactants, particulate matter, fluorescers, and other materials. The components of inks serve many purposes; the ink’s carrier, colorants, and other additives control flow and thickness of the ink and its appearance when dry.

Painters and paperhangers stand for prolonged periods. Their jobs also require a considerable amount of climbing, bending, kneeling, crouching, crawling and reaching with arms raised overhead often on scaffolding, ladders, and working at heights. Painters often work outdoors but seldom in wet, cold or inclement weather. Painters wear masks to reduce exposure to hazardous materials or paint fumes when working in areas with poor ventilation. Much of the work is done alone requiring independent thinking, safety awareness and ability to communicate with the customer. Special equipment is often used; such as equipment for welding, for use while scaffolding, on booms and lifts.
This difference becomes most important when there are several independent ways of extending functionality. In some object-oriented programming languages, classes cannot be created at runtime, and it is typically not possible to predict, at design time, what combinations of extensions will be needed. This would mean that a new class would have to be made for every possible combination. By contrast, decorators are objects, created at runtime, and can be combined on a per-use basis. The I/O Streams implementations of both Java and the .NET Framework incorporate the decorator pattern.

Painters deal practically with pigments,[6] so "blue" for a painter can be any of the blues: phthalocyanine blue, Prussian blue, indigo, Cobalt blue, ultramarine, and so on. Psychological and symbolical meanings of color are not, strictly speaking, means of painting. Colors only add to the potential, derived context of meanings, and because of this, the perception of a painting is highly subjective. The analogy with music is quite clear—sound in music (like a C note) is analogous to "light" in painting, "shades" to dynamics, and "coloration" is to painting as the specific timbre of musical instruments is to music. These elements do not necessarily form a melody (in music) of themselves; rather, they can add different contexts to it.