Thursday, April 05, 2007

Vincent Van Gogh, Readers' Advisor

Vincent Van Gogh loved books and talking about them. According to Martin Gayford, author of The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles, he filled his little rented house with reading materials. There were stacks of books and magazines in several rooms. No matter how short his funds he went regularly to the train station to buy several newspapers, and he frequented the local bookshop.

Vincent loved novels and read them in three languages - Dutch, French, and English. He had a very battered copy of La joie de vivre by Emile Zola that he had read many times. He kept up with the works of Guy de Maupassant, Alphonse Daudet, Jean Richepin, Joris-Karl Huysmans, and the brothers Edmond and Jules de Goncourt. He also loved Charles Dickens and George Eliot.

His nonfiction reading must have been concentrated in his magazines and newspapers. Gayford tells about his closely following accounts of the trial of murderer Prado in the Parisian papers.

Vincent was not satisfied with just reading a couple of hours a night. He was always pushing books constantly to his friends and family. He talked about books at taverns and brothels. He sent booklists to his brother Theo and sister Wil. Gauguin read some of what he suggested, but seemed to leave several of the novels covered in yellow paper in his chair (see above).

If Vincent were alive today, maybe he could have a part time job at the public library in Arles. His supervisor could send him to a workshop to hone his advisory techniques. He could also help with library displays and design some promotional materials. I am sure he could use a few extra euros and mental health benefits.

1 comment:

Alexander Barnett said...

Since you are interested in Vincent’s life and work, you might want to look at the Notes section on I am the writer and director of the new independent film on his life.