I'll set the scene for you. I was on the Long Island Rail Road, returning from another day and evening in Queens. I spend a lot of time in Queens lately, but more on that later. It was around 11 p.m. I had been up since the crack of dawn and I had expended a lot of energy all day. Then I'd dined and had a drink with Lillian. Her friend was on his way to join us, but I was seriously SO TIRED from all the hard work -- some of it demanding physical labor -- that has been filling my hours and days of late that I could barely hold my head up. At 10:15 I was like, seriously, I'm turning into a pumpkin. I headed for the subway, waited at the station, then switched to my train to Hempstead, etc etc. Exhausted. Drained. Ready to fall into bed but still a few minutes from home. For various mysterious electrical reasons the train lights blinked out a few times during the ride; that happens sometimes and it's not worrisome but it makes reading difficult.
And reading I was. Thirteen pages from the end of Lust for Life. Vincent is speaking with Doctor Gachet, the last in his long line of doctors, and apparently one of his truest friends. And by the way, Irving Stone writes a thoughtful tone of voice for the doctor with " . . . " between some of his words and when I quote it like that below, I am not editing the text and replacing left out parts with ellipses; it's exactly as Stone wrote it. Anyway, Vincent and the doc are talking about why the doctor always has a look of heartbreak about him. He tells Vincent all he sees is pain. Vincent says he would exchange his calling for the doctor's. The doctor says he wanted to be an artist all his life, but could spare "only an hour here and there." Those paragraphs on page 476 should have been a warning, but forgive me. I was tired. I did not have my wits about me. I was blindsided:
"Doctor Gachet went on his knees and pulled a pile of canvases from under Vincent's bed. He held a glowing yellow sunflower before him.
'If I had painted just one canvas like this, Vincent, I would consider my life justified. I spent the years curing people's pain. . .but they died in the end, anyway . . . so what did it matter? These sunflowers of yours . . . they will cure the pain in people's hearts . . . they will bring people joy . . . for centuries and centuries . . . that s why your life is successful . . . that is why you should be a happy man."'