Saturday, October 31, 2015

"Francis Bacon In Your Blood" by Michael Peppiatt

978-1-63286-344-7 Bloomsbury Publishing

Michael Peppiatt's memoir of life with the great painter Francis Bacon is rich in alcohol and every expensive meal they ate.  If Peppiatt added recipes to this book, it would have been one of the great cookbooks of all time.  On the other hand, we have lives here that spent the greatest of all possible times.   Depression is around the corner, but when you're drinking the finest alcoholic drinks and eating food like today will be your last, it is hard to feel sorry for the participants in Bacon's life.  The one thing I love about Francis Bacon is his mystique.  On one level, he's very obvious and seems to be easy to read, but the truth is that he's' quite a complex character.  

Peppiatt's memoir or narrative mainly takes place in Soho London and Paris.  One can't imagine Bacon existing in another city than those two.   Bacon, is without a doubt, one of the great citizens of London.   Who wouldn't want to spend time under his expertise as a guide to the underworld of various expensive restaurants, nightclubs and numerous (often seedy) bars.   In his world, painters as well as East-End gangsters show up, and is a heady mix of a sense of danger and having a great meal at the same time.  

"Francis Bacon In Your Blood" is just as complex as its subject matter.  Peppiatt is known for his excellent Bacon biography "Anatomy Of An Enigma."   Of the two, the biography is the better book.  The memoir here is almost like a sketch book of notes regarding the author's time with Bacon, which overall, was pretty intense.   Bacon, I suspected, that once he liked you, one is forever in his circle till he either destroys you or fatten you up - and in no way or fashion could I have existed in his world - just on the drinking and eating of extremely rich foods.  The fact that he lived to the of 80-something is remarkable, considering his drinking and eating habits.   The excess of his life is fully exposed in Peppiatt's memoir, and what is interesting is how one can survive such a pleasurable nightmare.  

Peppiatt does all the right things in his book, but I feel it needs a stronger editorial help.  A lot of the stories are repeated by Bacon (as they were in real life), but not necessary in a book form.   This is a huge book, and I think it would have been a better read if it was half its size.  The only thing that I found interesting in Peppiatt, besides his closeness to his subject matter, is when he became an editor of "Art International."  Mostly due to my interest in publishing.  If he was going to write on anything else besides Bacon, I would have liked to read actually more about his publishing a magazine.   The fact that Peppiatt is straight and compared to Bacon's other colorful friends, he doesn't come off that interesting.   I'm not clear why Bacon found him so interesting enough to put him squarely in his world.  Perhaps he needed someone that was sort of neutral in his life, so he can talk.  Perhaps like one who confesses to a priest, he needed a listener who wouldn't have an attitude towards him.  And in most cases, Peppiatt was a very good friend and listener to Bacon's rants, complaints, and his love for the 'dirty' life of Soho London and elsewhere. 

Book is released in December, 2015.

- Tosh Berman

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