Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl – review.

A play on the title of a Rembrandt and a James Joyce novel, Grayson Perry’s autobiography charts his childhood, teen years and early career in an amusing insightful manner.

Perhaps the first thing to note is who wrote this book – whilst it is an recollection of Perry’s life it is only a partial autobiography – Grayson owns the fact that he is not primarily a writer ( though in recent years this has somewhat changed with the publishing of books such as Playing to the Gallery and most recently, the Descent of Man) this book was co-written with the help of Wendy Jones – a friend of the his.

The is made up of transcripts of Jones and Perry’s conversations and consequently has a chatty, informal style that warms the reader to Grayson – his phrasing comes through brilliantly and is often hilarious.

Perry’s explanations and exploration of the roots of his transvestitism and creation of his alter-ego Claire and the hero worship of his childhood teddy Alan Measles are a fascinating and accessible uncovering of the psychology of such a significant part of Perry’s public persona – he collected the Turner prize in 2003 as Claire.

Alongside his personal story, Perry’s novels evokes memories or images of the later 20th working class England that remind you of childhood reconnaissances of your own (or your parents’, if you happen to be young like me!) along with the student experience of Thatcherite England and the artistic counterculture that it provoked.

Even for those with no prior knowledge of Perry or his work, this proves an enlightening, easy, yet content – full read that, if one should visit one of his exhibitions or watch one of his many Channel 4 documentaries, will provide a brilliant context for not only the style but personal symbolism of his works.

 

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