The man in the red coat makes for a fascinating companion want a great antidote to distress over current events Julian bonds found it in his immersive plunge into the incredible flowering of sexual and artistic expression in Belle Epoque France and into one man’s mostly admirable life, in particular, his 24th book and eighth volume of nonfiction.
The man in the red coat is a wonderful demonstration of the sort of free-range intellectual curiosity Barnes feels has been stymied by the xenophobia and nationalism behind Brexit in part of the biography of Samuel Jean Potsie a celebrated French geologist and Anjou and who is the red-robed subject of John Singer Sargent sumptuous full-length portrait Dr. Potsie at home BOMs book expands into an erudite entertaining and beautifully illustrated disquisition
The period between 1870 and 1914 actually bears some interesting parallels with our own times the son of two French-language teachers and a longtime Francophile who sealed his literary stature with his third novel flow bears parrot 1984 Bunz is in his element writing about dr. potty’s dazzling circle of contemporaries which included Guy de Maupassant collet stay feign malhomme Jori’s calves Mons and Marcel Proust Sarah Bernard was a patient and lover who called him Dr du Clos medical colleagues included Prost’s father and brother
And most of these notables made it onto collectible photographic cards that were included with Felix pot in chocolate bars between 1898 and 1922 rather like baseball trading cards and are reproduced throughout red coat the book begins with what at first seems to be the start of a joke three Frenchmen a prince account and a celebrity genealogist head to London in 1885 for some intellectual and decorative shopping but this is no joke there all these feats and they have crossed the channel 2nd bus can handle at the Crystal Palace and stock up on Liberty curtain fabric best part of the man in the red coat by Julian Barnes
They come bearing an introductory letter from sergeant to Henry James with the doctor bombs has found an unusual largely forgotten hero potty Barnes writes was a path-breaking surgeon the person to call to extract a bullet or suture intestinal lesions after a duel an all too common occurrence at the time and bonds notes cheaper than today’s libel suits or to remove a massive ovarian cyst as he did from Bernhardt in his seminal textbook treatise of gynecology.
Potsie established guidelines for genealogical exams with the patient’s comfort in mind he also saved countless lives by introducing British surgeon Joseph Lister’s antiseptic methods to colleagues who did not see the need to wash their hands before operating but dr. Potts II was not all work and no play as Barnes makes clear rational energetic and personable he was also an unhappily married lothario who seduced many of his female patients earning him the sobriquet doctor love la Mujer made us in in one of many delicious tidbits BOMs reports that a Princess of Monaco.
The dubbed Potsie disgustingly handsome buns does not shy from discussing the doctor’s sexual transgressions including a decades-long affair with a married Austrian Jew or his daughter’s distress over her strained relationship with her father which she wrote about in her intimate and often histrionic Diaries from which Barnes quotes at length but he cautions that it is inappropriate to judge Potsie by today’s standards.
Read a love story:- it ends with us pdf
The terroristic ratted chums of accompanied Potsie on that cultural jaunt to London are less admirable but no less entrusting Prince Edmund de Polignac was one of many Bella Peck gold diggers who married American heiresses to refill their financial coffers he was also a closeted gay man whose aristocratic horse trade with sowing heiress when the Reta singer a lesbian 31 years his junior turned out to be a win-win or win-win situation she got a title he got funding for his lavish lifestyle and they got along the flamboyant count Robert the mosque wimp personified a theism a mediocre poet and avid collector of curiosities he found a measure of immortality in other artists work including James Whistler Giovanni Boldini and Proust.
He was also the model for the central character in Whisman stark fantastical Bible of French decadence against nature era bores 1884 Bunz Flitz through the sexual gossip petulant duels violent outbursts medical advances and two English tribes and lurid excesses of the Belle Epoque seasoning it all with rhyme two ejections on art and literature like his meditations on death and grieving nothing to be frightened of 2008 and levels of Life 2013 there’s both an elegance and informality to redcoat rather like pottsy’s – in a dressing gown in sergeants famous portrait but this is a more cheerful book and we have another biography a book on Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance.
Which although deeply researched announces itself as a freewheeling study by his chewing the usual trappings of scholarship including bibliography footnotes and even chapters Bunz Flitz through the sexual gossip petulant duels violent outbursts medical advances and to English jibes and lurid excesses of the Balearic seasoning it all with rhyme – ejections on art and literature he reminds us that there are more uncertainties in nonfiction than in fiction and so much we cannot know he declares memorably biography is a collection of holes tied together with string and nowhere more so than with the sexual and amatory life.
The unanswerable questions, redcoat raises do geologists make better lovers buns at Mitsos sounds like a bumper sticker was Sarah Bernhardt purportedly a nymphomaniac an orgasmic what actually happened to cause the chill between Potsie and his wife he writes all of these matters could, of course, be solved in a novel bomb also considers pottsy’s violent end from a novelists point of view a Donzi one shot dead by a man who blamed him for not curing his impotence what sort of morality tale is that in fiction it would seem cutely snug nonfiction is where we allow things to happen because they did which are glib and implausible and moralistic nothing glib about this delightful can summon Leo pijn minded book