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dinakt
06-21-2012, 09:35 PM
Which one is this? I'm currently reading Dear Theo, a compilation of Vincent's letters to his brother. It's kind of a slog to be honest because so much of it is about Vincent's devotion to God and as an atheist, reading pages upon pages of prose on this subject holds no interest for me. I'll give it a few more chapters to see if it gets better.

It's "Van Gogh- the life" by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. It's new and got excellent reviews. It is also 900 pages of dense small print; the authors go in every detail, analyzing almost every letter and VG's every move. They do it in objective, rather than sympathetic manner, so the picture that emerges is hardly flattering; Van Gogh was a truly impossible person to be around. And yet is it fascinating; you know what he has become, and it seems almost impossible, reading about him, that he ever got wherever he got.

The letters... oy. Having read excerpts from them I doubt I could get through the oeuvre. The religious phase will pass completely, take heart ( that was before he wanted to be a painter; he wanted to save the poor but they shunned him because he was just too unconventional; it dragged on, then he had a breakdown, lived as a hobo for some time, gradually recovered; he'll make a complete turn-around on his religious views after that)- but be prepared for constant passive- agressive ( or just agressive) self- justification, belittling of Theo and demands of money.
The picture I am getting is that Van Gogh was maniacal, agressive, quarrelsome and self- righteous... and, of course, a visionary at the end.

Wyliefan
06-21-2012, 09:37 PM
Maybe he should've stuck to the religious phase. :saint:

dinakt
06-21-2012, 09:44 PM
Maybe he should've stuck to the religious phase. :saint:

From what gather, he took his every conviction to such extreme that it destroyed him, and then he had to rebound and find something new to hold on to. Not for the lack of trying, but out of trying too hard. The cycle seems to go- idea, taking it to maniacal heights- scaring everybody who initially supported it- having a meltdown- slow recovery- new idea.

Wyliefan
06-21-2012, 09:46 PM
I have heard something along those lines. Manic depressive, wasn't he? I've often thought how awful it must have been to try to live with that before people even knew what it was.

dinakt
06-21-2012, 09:55 PM
I have heard something along those lines. Manic depressive, wasn't he? I've often thought how awful it must have been to try to live with that before people even knew what it was.

I think so; but reading play- by play it all seems even more complex somehow.
What is truly incredible is that somebody who was a very mediocre, beginner painter at 30, quarreled with everybody in the art world, was expelled from every art school he's ever attempted to go to - by his death at 37 created a new painting school. I keep reading and thinking- 'How on earth is he going to make it? How does one go from THIS ( lying in a ditch, being perceived as total black sheep even by avant- garde painters of the time, not being able to draw a nude model correctly)- to the great artist we know? That is mind- boggling; but only comes in the last third of the book, as the first 30 years of his life he fails in pretty much everything.

falling_dance
06-21-2012, 10:09 PM
And conversely, plenty of books about family disharmony which are brilliant. These are the ones I actually prefer.

This post reminds me that I really should get around to rereading The Man Who Loved Children. Even what I remember to be its chief flaw--its longueurs--made still more palpable the rottenness and torpidity of the Pollits' wretched family life. It doesn't hurt that Christina Stead's prose is exquisite, either.

ryanbfan
06-22-2012, 06:37 AM
So I think I will start Lisa See's Peony In Love as it is billed as the perfect summer read and beach vacation looms. I've read See before and liked it.

Peony in Love was an extremely frustrating read for me :wall:, probably my least favorite See book. My favorite is Shanghai Girls. Dreams of Joy didn't go the way I wanted it to. It was good, but I didn't like it as much as Shanghai Girls. Snowflower and the Secret Fan was really good too, but the ending frustrated me.

IceAlisa
06-22-2012, 07:02 AM
Uh oh. ITA about Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy. What was frustrating about Peony in Love?

oleada
06-22-2012, 03:58 PM
I could not make it through Shanghai Girls :slinkaway

Ajax
06-22-2012, 07:05 PM
but be prepared for constant passive- agressive ( or just agressive) self- justification, belittling of Theo and demands of money.

That is exactly the impression I'm getting from Dear Theo. He doesn't come across as likeable or relatable, more like a freeloading whiner. I think I may give up on the book, I'm 80 pages in and it still hasn't captured my interest. To be honest, the reason I became interested in Van Gogh's life is because I saw the Doctor Who episode about him (which is fantastic, available on Netflix Instant, and should be watched even if you've never seen any Doctor Who). Having struggled with depression myself I really related to his portrayal there, but the book is just too long and meandering to be captivating. I think I'm going to see if the library has a book about his art, his techniques, his influence on the rest of the art world etc. That would probably interest me a lot more. Any recommendations for that, by any chance?

my little pony
06-22-2012, 09:30 PM
i'm trying to force myself to finish "a visit from the goon squad." i feel like i'm being punished.

Artemis@BC
06-22-2012, 11:35 PM
i'm trying to force myself to finish "a visit from the goon squad." i feel like i'm being punished.

I couldn't get past about chapter 3 on that one. Bleaurgh.

Really, why punish yourself? Life's to short to waste time on books you're not enjoying.

dinakt
06-22-2012, 11:52 PM
That is exactly the impression I'm getting from Dear Theo. He doesn't come across as likeable or relatable, more like a freeloading whiner. I think I may give up on the book, I'm 80 pages in and it still hasn't captured my interest. To be honest, the reason I became interested in Van Gogh's life is because I saw the Doctor Who episode about him (which is fantastic, available on Netflix Instant, and should be watched even if you've never seen any Doctor Who). Having struggled with depression myself I really related to his portrayal there, but the book is just too long and meandering to be captivating. I think I'm going to see if the library has a book about his art, his techniques, his influence on the rest of the art world etc. That would probably interest me a lot more. Any recommendations for that, by any chance?

Now I absolutely have to watch Doctor Who. I've never seen it, but now that I developed a bit of an artistic crush on Mark Gatiss ( due to "Sherlock"), and the presence of Van Gogh in it, I'll just have to. Thanks for the tip!
As for the book on Van Gogh's technique- maybe somebody else here knows, I don't, unfortunately.
The book, though, that deals with manic- depressive side of many creative people and that really helped me in my college years when I tried to understand close friends who had manic- depression, is "Touched with Fire" by Kay Jamison. I know it's been brought up in this thread before and IceAlisa and I are loved it ( right, IceAlisa?)
It is not without controversy, and in its criticism I read that it both romantisized manic depression and delved into pop psychology. Still, it analyzes mental condition of many great artistic minds of the 19th century ( Byron, van Gogh, Poe among them), and for me at the time, it was revelatory.
In fact, I just bought the book on my Kindle, to see if I still love it 20 years later.
One thing the Van Gogh bio makes clear is that his art is absolutely dependent on his state of mind. They even speculate that the famous swirls in his late paintings ( "Starry Night" etc) might be a direct result of the brain chemistry before the seisure ( perhaps epileptic) .
It might be voyeuristic, but it is also fascinating.

... and I can't wait to see Doctor Who! Would you remember what year Van Gogh episode was?

Prancer
06-24-2012, 02:46 PM
Lurves my mysteries (some of them, anyway), but this made me laugh because it is SO true: http://www.themillions.com/2012/06/the-games-afoot-the-case-of-the-mystery-genres-terrible-secret.html

skatesindreams
06-24-2012, 06:01 PM
Maybe he should've stuck to the religious phase. :saint:

Van Gogh's father was a minister; and he was raised in a religious household.
I've wondered if he tried to "manufacture" a "calling" that he didn't really have; and whether the "failure" contributed to his emotional instability.