If Max Porter’s “The Death of Francis Bacon” is intended to represent the ravings of a dying man, then job done. Tick. The danger – from a reader’s perspective, however – is that you’re not entirely sure exactly what’s going on. There is a balance to be struck, of course, a tightrope to be walked, and I’m not sure Porter consistently manages not to fall off.
But let’s face it, “The Death of Francis Bacon” is very inventive. A bold endeavour – though I confess that I’m not entirely sure the significance of the seven ‘paintings’, even with the occasional sense of the ekphrastic.
On the plus side, “The Death of Francis Bacon” doesn’t take very long to read – about 40 minutes – which is probably apt because it reads as if it didn’t take very long to write either… Though that’s probably unkind.
My copy is ‘signed’- which in this case means Faber has stuck a Post-It note on the title page with a scrawl on it which, I can only assume, is Max’s signature. It’s a shame they didn’t get him to sign the books themselves. This approach feels a bit like a cheap cop out: “Here Max, sign this big pile of Post-Its for us and we’ll do the rest…”
Perhaps in time the book will be hailed a minor masterpiece, but until then it will be taking up a very small amount of space on my bookcase next to his other two novels.