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Vivian and I [Paperback]

Colin Bacon
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.00
Price: 11.39 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

30 Sep 2010
This remarkable memoir of the legendary Vivian Mackerrell, on whom the character Withnail in Bruce Robinson's iconic film was largely based, is also an attempt to capture the essence of growing up as part of the 'Baby Boom' generation. It encompasses the half century from the end of the Second World War until the height of the ecstasy era. Vivian's story is told intertwined with incidents from Colin Bacon's own life along with a wealth of colourful eccentrics and luminaries including Bruce Robinson and Paul Smith. Both 'sons of Nottingham', Bacon came to know Vivian well. There was no doubt that Mackerrell was a star. After leaving drama school he seemed, with his obvious talent and good looks, destined for great things. But by then his life had begun to decline into a maelstrom of excess. Despite the obvious health warnings, he continually refused to change, accepting his fate with mild indifference. This funny, warm and affectionate memoir will be essential reading to the many thousands of Withnail fans and a vivid social document of a now forgotten time.

Frequently Bought Together

Vivian and I + Withnail and I (Bloomsbury Film Classics) + Withnail & I: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know But Were Too Drunk To Ask
Price For All Three: 23.64

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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Quartet Books (30 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0704371944
  • ISBN-13: 978-0704371941
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 235,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'The real Withnail laid bare' --ShortList

'A bittersweet biography' --The Chap

'This is an odd book: an exhaustive biography of a complete nobody...there was evidently more to this personality than the grotesque tragedy that is Withnail' --The Spectator

About the Author

Colin Bacon was educated in Nottingham. After art-college and travelling, mainly through France, he settled in the West Country and qualified as a teacher, leaving after fifteen years to pursue other interests. He has two grown-up children and now lives in Newlyn where, as well as writing, he works with his wife running a successful art cards publishing company.

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Customer Reviews

2.9 out of 5 stars
2.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT..... 16 Sep 2011
As a fan of Bruce Robinson and Withnail and I, I was intrigued and excited to find a book that claimed to be a biography of Vivian Mackerell - the person that the Withnail character was loosely based upon. I was most disappointed to find that reading this book was like wading through the particularly noisome swamp of Colin Bacon's own life, beset by the stinging mosquitoes of his appalling grammar and prose style, and only occasionally finding relief in a fragrant waft of genuine insight into Vivian Mackerell.

The thinness of material relating to Mackerell borders on actionable. The author's repeated and intrusive observations on the superior authorship of the other contributors in the book is boring and annoying, but unfortunately for Colin Bacon, accurate. The laziness of the research is really unforgiveable. Mr Bacon states that 'he wanted his journey of discovery to lead to meeting lots of celebrities'. There is a strong sense that the possibilty of meeting famous people was the real motivating factor in writing this book, with the accompanying sense of disappointment that he did not get to meet as many celebrities as he had hoped.

Mr Bacon uses every opportunity to segue from the little material there is on Mackerell to comparisons with his own, appallingly tedious experience. 'Mackerell went to parties and consumed vast quantities of drugs and alcohol....which reminds me of a party I went to where drugs and aclochol were consumed'...., etc, etc.

In one horrific anecdote, Mr Bacon breezily relates how 'a friend' invites him to carrying on copulating with his girlfriend in a group sex situation at one of the charming parties Mr Bacon frequented in his youth.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Colin Bacon is No Bruce Robinson 26 Dec 2012
All aboard the 'Withnail & I' gravy train. You'd hardly think there was any room left would you? But Colin Bacon had managed to elbow his way aboard at the last minute.

This is one of the oddest little books I've ever read. the author apparently had a tenuous connection with someone that had a tenuous connection with a 1980's cult film. Over the past thirty years Bruce Robinson has emphasised many times that Withnail was not a portrait of one person - but an amalgam of a few people he knew at a certain time and place. He reiterates that here to Colin Bacon at the outset and henceforward keeps a respectable arms length from any involvement in this dubious project.

The essential problem here seems to be that Colin Bacon doesn't really seem to have known Vivian Mackerell particularly well. It's hard to fathom just what their relationship was other than that Bacon had heard about him from their Swinging Nottingham days. He approaches various people to help fill in the blanks but most of them offer little other than "Oh yeah, Viv... very good-looking... always drunk". Most anecdotes begin with Viv turning up at someone's house, drinking a case or two of wine and end with him having to have the vomit scraped from his classically tailored tweed breeches. All the while Bacon continually insists that Mackerell was "without doubt a star"...

Except that he wasn't was he? A handful of stage appearances, one or two film/tv roles - even his friends concede that he wasn't much good as an actor. No-one would ever have heard of him without Withnail. And there's nothing here to suggest what that star quality might have been like. Most pubs in the country have one or two charismatic, if sick-stained, drunks propping up the bar - good for a funny line or two.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A blown opportunity 18 Nov 2011
This is one of the most poorly written books I've ever encountered. While there is much new information about Viv MacKerrell (the inspiration for Withnail), Bacon's flabby first-person asides drown all his research. The last quarter of the book is readable, but barely worth the annoyance of getting there. I can't believe a real publisher published this drivel (in fact, they may never have read the manuscript, there are so many howling misspellings and typos). You can probably piece together as adequate a portrait of MacKerrell through Google searches. Save your money, and don't encourage this blindingly untalented writer to ever publish another word.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is dreadful, avoid at all costs 23 Jan 2011
By marcus
Originally, this book appeared exactly the sort of transient cash-in attempt that should be avoided, which is exactly what I did. However, with the best of intentions, my partner picked this up as a last minute Christmas present. Stuck in the house for several days, I thought I should read it, at least out of politeness . Both the author and I made a mistake, the difference being that mine was genuine.

Trite, lightweight, anodyne and utterly lacking in depth, this book illustrates little about Mackerrell that cannot be found elsewhere, such as friend Bruce Robinson's 'Conversations in Bed', or ex-partner Kate Stacey Lister's interview in 'The Scotsman'. However, it does illustrate much about Bacon's ineptitude as a biographical writer. To begin at the end, there is no index, which smacks of utter laziness. The hackneyed, pseudo-self deprecating way of referring to himself in the book shows an ego in inverse proportion to his ability.

The tone of the book suggests strongly that Bacon had little real interest in making any effort to uncover much about Mackerrell. His often-failed attempts to make contact with key figures such as Robinson give the distinct impression of a someone too ham-fisted in their approach to gain an interviewee's trust and too lazy to leave home to travel anywhere unless it was unavoidable. His approach seems to have been of the `have you got anything you could send me' sort, for which read a subtext of `because I can't really be bothered'.

Bacon ropes his wife into writing an account of how he and Mackerrell are related, presumably through the maternal line, although the connection is never made explicit. The writing is amateurishly adequate, but appears not to have been proof-read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun read for Withnail & I fans
I loved Withnail & I so this book was very interesting. Gives a very very good insight into the life and mind of Vivian McKerrel and I recommend it.
Published 12 months ago by Adam
5.0 out of 5 stars Vivian and I
I loved the film that this book is loosely based on 'Withnail and I' so purchased the book. The book is a slow starter and mainly describes the authors life rather than the... Read more
Published on 28 Nov 2011 by biffo0911
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book
I enjoyed Colin Bacon's last book - Trout but this is even better. Personal memories don't always make entertaining reading but this does, it has humour and pathos as well as a... Read more
Published on 20 July 2011 by veecee
1.0 out of 5 stars Really poor - avoid
If like me you love "Withnail and I" then you'll probably think it's fantastic that a biography of the real Withnail has been written. However this is not a biography. Read more
Published on 27 Jan 2011 by Mr. Trench
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth every penny!
This book has provided me with a colourful, funny, thoughtful insight into the life of Vivian Mackerrell. Read more
Published on 11 Jan 2011 by Rae
1.0 out of 5 stars How did this get published?
The author appears to know little about Vivian and never backs up his claim that the man was charming, entertaining, winsome etc. Read more
Published on 31 Dec 2010 by Clarissa
4.0 out of 5 stars I demand to have a memoir
This is a nice character study encompassing both Vivian Mackerrell and the curious post-war period of the UK. Read more
Published on 13 Dec 2010 by B. Roche
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Pressie...
Admittedly I bought it for myself after reading about this book in the Spectator, however it would make a great present for a cool friend of a certain age. Read more
Published on 11 Dec 2010 by Annie S
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