Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ooh la la

Well, things are getting sticky, in more ways than one. I'm trying to suggest the build up of a lot of nervous tension, in both good and bad ways, during Vincent's summer of 1888. In my mind, and as I'm hoping to present it in the novel, it's the time of his ultimate breakthrough artistically. He gets to a place he never got to before and never did again. But at the same time, his personal life gets more and more tricky. I'm blatantly fictionalizing an involuntary (and not quite consumated) "relationship" between him and a young girl who is infatuated with him. I'm using the figure from his famous "Mousmé" painting as one of my points of inspiration. At the same time--and this is very true to life--he was that summer becoming more and more adamant on the question of Gauguin moving to Arles and moving into his house. His admiration for Gauguin both as an artist and a man was tremendous, a kind of hero worship, and some critics have even suggested that his adoration bordered on the homoerotic. If you read Van Gogh's letters there is something to that notion, but it is only a notion. You have to be careful. 19th century male culture was not as hamstrung in regard to expressing affection as 21st century male culture is. I've heard it said, and I believe it, that the necessary political and social assertion by homosexual men of their rights and their simple existence has made straight men terrified to show affection for one another, for fear of being misunderstood. Such fear did not exist in the 19th century. That said, the possibly homoerotic nature of his admiration for Gauguin is something I am playing with while at the same time developing this odd, unwanted "affair" with the girl (the ficitonalized daughter of a man who did actually exist in real life, although we know nothing about him).

Am I building beneficials tensions into my book? Getting my character into hotter and hotter water, as good novels are supposed to? Or am I forcing into the Arles section ahistorical material that really shouldn't be there? I'm not sure yet. Maybe the answer is both. All I can say for sure is that as I looked over one scene with the girl I really had to tone things down. I don't know what I was doing in that earlier draft. It came close to porn. I think my wife, when she finally gets to read the draft of the whole novel, is not going to believe that this scene has been significantly cut. But it has!


  1. Hey John,
    I'm glad to find you in the blogosphere. I'm a wee bit fascinated by the whole Van Gogh thing. Hope your book is a wild success, but no taking Steph to some big city when you get famous.

    Teacher Food

  2. Hi Mike,

    You're the very first person to have commented on my blog. A breakthrough! Thank you so much. I don't know about the wild success part, but I'm enjoying the whole process of writing and now pulling the book together, and certainly it raises neverending creative questions--hence the blog.