Top positive review
Bleak reading but very endearing.
on 23 January 2017
Got totally intrigued by this selection of Vaughan's journals.They feature a lot about contemporary art, Vaughn's failed attempt at being a Conscientious Objector in World War 2, being chased by the taxman, his faith in the younger generation, what it's like growing old as a gay man, and his atheism.
The reader also sees Vaughan as an outsider, who doesn't quite understand the world. In 1940 , he innocently painted a trench dug outside Guildford, which soldiers were using for military exercises. He ended up arrested, locked up for eight days, the house shared with his mother raided by CID at 2 AM , in court and fined and his painting destroyed. Vaughan had quite innocently fallen foul of wartime regulations about drawing or painting defences. His later bewilderment at being chased by zealous Inland Revenue officials is not surprising.
There are parts where Vaughan's solitude get poignant " From a warm room, I look onto a cold world and long for a companion." Details of how he spent evenings on his own during the 1970's with some mystery device to help him masturbate, chain smoking, consuming a lot of alcohol and swallowing barbiturates, must have upset friends , including Alan Ross who edited the journals. It's is interesting to speculate what passages of the journals were deemed too personal or stark to be published. .
The last entry is particularly moving as Vaughan was writing after intentionally mixing alcohol and various pills, knowing he was dying from cancer. This suicide bid succeeded in 1977, and the final sentence just drifts off, his handwriting became too ineligible to transcribe.
But for all the post war suburban bleakness there are some passages of great perception
"Religion and the arts are often classed together in the higher cultural brackets of society. There is no justification for this. No one has ever been burnt at the stake, racked, thumb-screwed or garroted for liking or disliking any particular work of art. "( 20th August 1970)
Vaughan was well read , and his observations about literature , philosophy and art, are witty and interesting. There are also moments where Vaughan experienced of human intimacy ,but sadly fleeting when contrasted with accounts of his depression.
What I found intriguing is there seemed little about his own painting. No direct reference to what drove him to become a successful artists, I don't recall any of his paintings being referred too. But I 've only read the kindle version, have no idea if the book versions had more illustrations.