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on 5 August 2014
"I Brought This In Case" is a new and original version of the classic "Making It" by Norman Podhoretz, except written by a leftish pacifist visual artist of Cornish extraction with a full head of hair (which makes an early appearance in the plot: should Grylls keep his "Billy Fury" haircut or give in to the new Beatles craze?). Like "Making It," Grylls's book discloses the inward ambitions - however crass - of an outsider who is trying to suceed in a world full of idealistic pretension that pretends that there is no such thing as ambition. Like Norman, Vaughan has the wrong accent, comes from the wrong part of town (Newark, Staffs.), dresses in thw wrong way (so he wears a suit and tie to art school every day so as to save himself from trying to keep up with male peacockery), and yet he succeeds in making it in institutions carefully designed to exclude people like them: Cambridge U and The New Yorker, in Norman's case, in Vaughan's case, the Slade and the exhibition space of the Royal Academy.
Full disclosure: Although this book was written by a dear friend of mine, you will not find in my review the kind of snide fault-finding + faint praise -all propelled by envy of a friend's success - that my public expects from me. The fact is that this book is stunningly good and gripping. Its immediacy is huge, because it is asssembled from diary jottings, documents, and an unusual ability to write in the voice of an immature and insecure man that Grylls has somehow preserved against the ravages of time.
Grylls was a member of the very first generation to go through the UK's new 60s hip art education revolution - a fact he was far from knowing during most of his education. Born in Newark, Notts., he rose, despite his best efforts, from the then-down-on-its-luck Wolverhampton to the Slade, part of University College London, arriving in the capital as Swinging London was becoming Turned-On London. (Upon his arrival, a posh hippy advised him to "drop out," man - "all I could say back was that I couldn't as I haven't dropped in yet."
That we have this book is the result of a life wasted in saving insignificant trifles. VG as man and artist is a passionate archivist of words, objects, pictures, videos detailing everything in his experience (that does not prove that Reagan and GWB were right). From this hoard he has constructed an epic portrait of the artist as a young man, in which the story tells itself: conversations between VG and actual people, conversations between VG and several GFs whom one can tell were actual people though VG shows himself not able to discern at the time, and his contemporary interior monologue - much more self-accusing than self-obsessed.
I won't spoil VG's picture of himself, but so many great moments involving other people come to mind: the bewilderment of the shy art student who a posh artsy London hostess curse because he finds her family photos interesting, tho she doesn't mind the elderly QC screwing a teenaged hippie in the next BR. The American tourists, mother and teen daughter, whom he guides through London, stopping to see a Rolling Stones performance in Hyde Park. "Sally-Ann, you can see that rock-and-roll stuff at home, but you can't see Westminster Abbey at home!" And any number of fascinating women, the details of whose accents and dress whilst on dates the 60s-VG notes with care, whose inner life the 60s-VG is impervious to, but whose inner lives are fully revealed to us as we read (and no doubt as he compiled). We have his memories of his sessions with what must have been London's most confused psychoanalyst, pictures of his artworks and the reaction they caused - Professor of Philosophy Richard Wollheim seems to me to have understood them better than any of VG's professional teachers-and a portrait of how a young person acquires expertise and savoir-faire in spite of his pathetic efforts to acquire them. If you admire the early novels of Anthony Burgess, Kingsley Amis's Jim Dixon in Lucky Jim, or one of the great novels of visual artistic creation, Joyce Carey's novel series about Gulley Jimson, you must read this memoir.
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on 31 July 2014
This book is a 'find'. I enjoyed it so much. Delightful, beautifully observed vignettes topple over one another. The author is a benign, wry, quietly self-deprecating presence as interesting things happen to him. This book will appeal to all ages but for anyone who remembers (or doesn't remember) the '60s that world comes wonderfully back to life.

Vaughan Grylls may now be a significant artist but he is no less an accomplished writer. A master of the short sentence. What he doesn't say is almost more intriguing than what he does and this book is so well written you don't really notice you're reading it.
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VINE VOICEon 5 October 2014
I enjoyed Vaughan Grylls' book very much indeed. It is very funny and honest as autobiography, part life and times, part confessional. It also offers a sparkling account of what it was like to be an art student (or at least this particular art student), at first in the Midlands and later in London, between 1963 and 1970. Most importantly, it strikes me as authentic. By chance, I happen to have known at one time or another some of the people who crop up in Vaughan Grylls' story, and as far as I recall they are described accurately and very shrewdly. Attitudes of the time too, are reflected fairly, particularly the way that we men regarded women. His entire account has been written beautifully, candidly, and with great skill. It takes the form largely of dialogue, much of it quite hilarious, supported by a kind of internal, and very revealing, dialogue with himself where he rationalises or seeks to rationalise his motives for doing or saying this or that. The flow and sense of forward movement he creates throughout the book are compulsive and carry the reader almost bodily through a series of personal and professional adventures, highs and lows, which faithfully characterise life as a student and budding artist during what clearly was a wonderful time to be at art school in Britain.

Some reviewers here on Amazon make a comparison between the book and the work of Joyce Cary in "The Horses Mouth". I feel, however, and with no disrespect to Vaughan Grylls, that his account more closely resembles the voice of the young Adrian Mole, rewritten by Bruce Robinson of "Withnail and I" fame, and supplemented with a snatch or two of "Confessions of a Window Cleaner". Grylls may not thank me for that description but "I Brought This In Case" is a brilliant screenplay waiting to be written. Highly recommended.
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on 4 August 2014
1960s Art Colleges offered Vaughan the opportunity to discover freedom of artistic expression and pretty girls.
This amusing retrospective romp takes Vaughan Grylls from Wolverhampton to The Slade via spicy tales of The Agra, The Zeppelin and many a decaying shared flat.
A free thinking artist emerges from initial academic failure and self doubt.
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on 19 August 2014
This picaresque joyride through 1960s Britain careens over the potholed road of Grylls' bumpy art-school career, with many detours into ill-considered peccadillos. The whole contraption is powered by the author's amazing recollection of the minutiae of his personal history and a trunkful of memorabilia.

Written with an honesty that spares no one--most especially the author--this is a rollicking good read: fascinating, funny, insightful, occasionally offensive (in the interests of social-historical accuracy, according to Grylls) but never ever boring.
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on 31 July 2014
I have had a message from Brian who says "I have since re-read the book and changed my opinion"
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on 3 September 2014
Knowing the author I was quite surprised to realise what a naughty and endearing young man he had been as an art student. An amusing account with plenty of self -deprecating humour and interesting ruminations on how we used to teach art and what has happened to art education since the 60s.
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on 31 July 2014
A highly amusing account of the times. Touching as it reveals the memory issues that Vaughan has been coping with for a long time now.
I (brian) am not at all pompous. Mois?. Nor abrasive, I was a particularly sensitive and nervous boy who should never have been left alone for long periods.
Don't be put off about obtaining a copy though. I know £6 doesn't seem a lot - but it is all he can afford.....
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