THE GILDED GUTTER LIFE OF FRANCIS BACON by Daniel Farson
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THE GILDED GUTTER LIFE OF FRANCIS BACON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Gilded gutter life"" means rough but rich trade among gays, and Farson thus identifies the sex life of the English painter Francis Bacon (1909-92) with his work -- which many think of with sheer horror. Farson (The Man Who Wrote Dracula, 1976; the fictional Swansdowne, 1987, etc.) was friends with Bacon for 40 years, and he intends a memoir here, not a biography, although the latter is charcoaled in amid the gay barhopping. Born in Dublin around the corner from Oscar Wilde's birthplace, Bacon was so wildly and ingeniously wise that his life seems secondary to his table talk, as captured here and in David Sylvestre's 1975 Interviews. Though eventually very wealthy, Bacon dismissed material possessions, lived in reclusive squalor, thought posterity was rubbish, and -- to the outsider -- seemed to project some ghastly self-hatred upon the monstrously distorted humans in his canvases. Bacon could paint as literally as anyone, was bored by mere likeness, and set out to distort reality into reality. He'd paint from photos rather than hurt the feelings of subjects who sat for him, then saw themselves ""damaged"" by his distortions. Says Farson: ""He...was totally amoral. He had little time for weakness in others and no patience with human foibles or small vanities. He was easily bored.... Even if he had not become a painter his personality was so original that he would have made an impression on his time."" When his father found him dressing up in his mother's underwear at 15, he was shipped off to London to live alone on three pounds a week. Completely irreligious, he said he painted death as the shadow of life because he loved life so greatly. A physical masochist, a mental sadist, he offered as his favorite saying: ""We are meat. Cheerio!"" Like crawling in a tub of dead fish -- but a great read.

Pub Date: March 14th, 1994
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Pantheon