Friday, December 4, 2015

The Marvellous A.A. Gill's Pour Me

If you're not familiar with A.A. Gill's restaurant and travel reviews then read this. Its sizzling style and panache defines the man, easily one of the world's finest journalists/critics in my humble opinion*.

His latest book, Pour Me, is the best autobiography I've read in many years, if not ever. It is a classic.

He was born into a loving family with libertarian, dissenting, argumentative parents. He was diagnosed as dyslexic when not much was known about the condition, so was sent to a 'special' boarding school (which was nothing of the sort). He survived the experience by indulgence - in books, music, protests, sex, drink and drugs, and 'good mates'.

He suffered severe alcoholism throughout his twenties. The book is unflinching in describing his descent into that hopeless, degrading, personal terror. It's an enlightening treatise on the psychology of addiction. 

Read this memoir for the exquisite writing, and the wit that sparkles on every page (' oldest friend Christopher...we have lunch every two or three years and consequently have remained close'. p101).

His story reminded me of the marvellous and revelatory Patrick Melrose novels by fellow English writer Edward St Aubyn. They share similar lacerating, thoroughly invigorating prose styles. 

Pour Me's narrative keeps spinning off into memories, reveries and meditations on art, music, histories, teachers, doctors, other people of influence, painters (including a lovely few pages on Turner and his virtual invention of the colour yellow), and editors and cooks ('One of the great misconceptions about dinner is that nice people make good food. That there is a soul in honest, loving dishes which are passed from the hand of the chef to the mouth of a grateful diner; that you could trust a good cook. But it's almost exactly the opposite. Great food is cooked by twisted, miserable, depressive, cruel, abused and abusive, needy, compromised and shamed people. p162).

The final chapters of the book range over his career in journalism in the heyday of newspapers and features. It's a celebration of the craft, and of editors and photographers. 

I can thoroughly recommend this wonderful book.

*This from the blurb: 'A.A. Gill is the author of A.A. Gill is Away, The Angry Island, Previous Convictions, Table Talk, Paper View, A.A. Gill is Further Away, and Golden Door, as well as two novels. He is the TV and restaurant critic and regular features writer for the Sunday Times, columnist for Esquire, and contributor to the Australian Gourmet Traveller.

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