cover image Francis Bacon in Your Blood: A Memoir

Francis Bacon in Your Blood: A Memoir

Michael Peppiatt. Bloomsbury, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-1-63286-344-7

In this appealing but limited memoir, Peppiatt, author of the definitive biography Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma (1997), constructs an affecting personal narrative about his friendship with the great painter. In the 1960s, while a disillusioned student of art history at University of Cambridge, Peppiatt sought Bacon out for a magazine interview and was promptly swept up into his orbit, “riding a crest of Champagne,” and advancing deeper into the seamy world of London’s Soho district. Peppiatt’s descriptions of Bacon’s “masochistic generosity” and the ways he would willfully pursue punishment and pain afford some of the best insights into the artist. Peppiatt also describes Bacon as full of “boundless energy,” “a father figure,” and a man of “contrary extremes.” Bacon, Peppiatt suspects, took interest in him as a young, attractive man whose heterosexuality posed “a challenge to his undoubted powers of seduction.” The memoir relies on the meticulous notes that Peppiatt kept over these years. Bacon is quoted in long, portentous, and redundant paragraphs. He once called himself a “very superficial person,” and he can certainly sound like one. Even if true to life, this unfiltered discourse does not make for the best reading. Similarly, too much of the narrative consists of avid dining and drinking with the artist, which is repetitive and only interesting to a point. Still, Peppiatt’s book emerges as a credible document of a life spent under the heady influence of a tremendous talent and personality. Illus. (Dec.)