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5 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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. I've never really got into the whole "Withnail and I" thing - but perhaps I need to watch it on my own without everyone telling me which bits are funny or, even worse, quoting great spiels of the script along with the...
Published on 11 Dec 2010 by Annie S

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT.....
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...
Published on 16 Sep 2011 by Raqs Max


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT....., 16 Sep 2011
This review is from: Vivian and I (Paperback)
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. Despite noticing that the young woman appears to be comatose at that point, he responds to exhortations to his friend's invitation to 'go forth and finish her off' with a revolting 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink' description of events. It seems odd to me to brag about being a rapist in print, but then the whole book is odd.

There are a few poignant moments, mainly centred on Mackerell's own correspondence from his final days. A sense of the innate charisma and likeability of the man does come through, with a conviction that like Mackerell's friends you would be charmed and exasperated by him in equal measure.

Bruce Robinson expressed reservations about contributing to this book. Now it is published, he must be heaving huge sighs of relief that he has not tainted himself by association.....
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Colin Bacon is No Bruce Robinson, 26 Dec 2012
This review is from: Vivian and I (Paperback)
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. Not necessarily worth a whole obsequious biography though.

Names are dropped thick and fast, but the average reader is unlikely to have heard of most of them. Mainly struggling drama students never to be heard of ever again, Bacon views them as an impossibly glamorous in-crowd, but again his writing fails to convey what might be special about them. The book reads as an interminably tedious account of seventies student life. Drinking, spliffing, trying to get women into bed, listening to Pink Floyd and David Bowie. It's all pretty average, run of the mill and slightly dated stuff. As pointed out in other reviews here, grammar and factual mistakes abound. It might be that this is a conscious effort to reflect Vivian/Withnail's own character which might have been an interesting approach had the author really gone for it. But unfortunately I don't think that's the case here - he just needs an editor to tidy the mess up.

One of the most irritating aspects of the 'narrative' is whenever a line of enquiry about Mackerell peters out (and they always do), Bacon begins unrolling anecdotes about his own life and experiences. These are longer and even more pitiably tedious than his tales of Mackerell.

I read Bruce Robinson's Smoking in Bed a few years ago and the same person that bought me that has bought me this volume. Robinson's book was funny, interesting and full of insight not only into Withnail & I but writing and film-making in general. Sadly Bacon's book is about very little indeed. You come away from this book knowing scarcely anything more about Vivian Mackerell than you knew when you started and a whole lot more about Colin Bacon than you could ever wish to know.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A blown opportunity, 18 Nov 2011
This review is from: Vivian and I (Paperback)
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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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is dreadful, avoid at all costs, 23 Jan 2011
This review is from: Vivian and I (Paperback)
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. Witness the use, or rather misuse, of the word 'antecedence' instead of 'antecedents'. Surely a difference a biographer should know. The repeated use of the word 'family', in one case five times in nine lines, can only lead me to hope that the Bacons have spent at least some of their earnings on a Thesaurus.

Despite the `me, me, me' of the very distant connection between Mackerrell and Bacon, the author, using the term in its most generous sense, gives no similar account of Mackerrell's family tree on his father's side. Yet more ego and laziness on Bacon's part.

Towards the last quarter of the book it becomes clear that the very few facts that Bacon has bothered to assemble are by now stretched almost beyond breaking-point across what is still an inadequate number of pages. The author is reduced to writing a fictional account of the end of Mackerrell's life, to fill out the pages. Although it becomes obvious very quickly, there is no signal to the reader that we are lurching from a biography to a novel. Perhaps he needed the practice, but why it should be inflicted on the general public is utterly beyond me.

As a closing example, Bacon's describing of Scotch whisky Bowmore as a `whiskey' seals the coffin of his credibility. Ultimately Bacon has bothered to do little more than the absolute minimum to hack together something he can use to cash in on the popularity of the film `Withnail and I'.

If all copies of `Vivian and I' were pulped, the quality of writing would improve slightly. The fate of my copy is sealed.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars How did this get published?, 31 Dec 2010
By 
Clarissa (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Vivian and I (Paperback)
The author appears to know little about Vivian and never backs up his claim that the man was charming, entertaining, winsome etc. He writes more about himself than about his subject, and my god, he is tedious.
Goodness, look at me talking to a rich person. Oooh, this one's famous.
As a paper book, it is an oddity, but be warned, there is nothing Withnail about this. It's just weird and unhelpful.
I feel as though I've stumbled into a cult publication.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Really poor - avoid, 27 Jan 2011
This review is from: Vivian and I (Paperback)
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. The author has so little material about Mackerrell that he pads out this thin tome with tales from his own life and the story of him writing letters and phoning people to get his material. As one other reviewer writes, the guy has some kind of fixation on celebrities too. We get regular comments on famous people he has briefly met or spoken to. "I once urinated on Elvis Costello's tour bus". Did you? How uninteresting.

I ended up scanning through the book to find the rare references to Vivian Mackerrell. When they occurred they appeared to have been copied verbatim from letters he received from people that did reply to him.

This is a really poor book. Please don't encourage Colin Bacon to write another one by buying it.
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5 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Pressie..., 11 Dec 2010
This review is from: Vivian and I (Paperback)
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. I've never really got into the whole "Withnail and I" thing - but perhaps I need to watch it on my own without everyone telling me which bits are funny or, even worse, quoting great spiels of the script along with the characters. This is only permitted when watching the Blues Brothers.
The book is based on the life, loves, drug-induced highs and dignity losing and cringingly embarassing lows of Vivian MacKerrell who was the inspiration for the character of Withnail, and a friend of the film's writer and director Bruce Robinson. Colin Bacon has used a loose friendship with Vivian to tell his tale through those people that knew him, interspersed with tales of Colin's own life growing up in Nottingham and then latterly moving to Cornwall. This is quite a smart-arsian technique as there are times that it seems that Vivian's star is rising while Colin is plumping up the cushions in the gutter - but this soon switches. The way that Vivian's demise is told is both poignant and witty. In fact it is a very funny, well written book and has resulted in Colin Bacon ousting Professor Brian Cox as a guest at my dream dinner party. I probably wouldn't invite Vivian...
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3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I demand to have a memoir, 13 Dec 2010
By 
B. Roche "somethingisrotten" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Vivian and I (Paperback)
This is a nice character study encompassing both Vivian Mackerrell and the curious post-war period of the UK. Warmly written by Bacon, this gentle and non-judgmental account of the man behind Withnail (from the film Withnail and I) is an engrossing read, cataloging the highs and lows of a gent who never said no to experimentation and excess and whose screen persona captivated a generation.

Bacon, who grew up in the same era, peppers the book with anecdotes and tales of his own life, so that the timeline of both author and subject intermingle, sometimes rather closely, before ultimately splitting and tracing quite different paths.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun read for Withnail & I fans, 2 April 2013
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This review is from: Vivian and I (Paperback)
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.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vivian and I, 28 Nov 2011
This review is from: Vivian and I (Paperback)
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 subject. It does get better though and there are a few humorous recollections from people who knew the subject. All in all a good book for fans of the film.
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Vivian and I
Vivian and I by Colin Bacon (Paperback - 30 Sep 2010)
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