Pour Me: A Life Paperback – 17 Nov. 2016
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'A.A. Gill, the man who makes a living getting beneath the skin of things, whether it's television, restaurants or places round the world - has skinned himself ... The funny, curious, sad and often sodden stories are told using combinations of words and ideas that shouldn't be friends, but hold hands at the behest of Gill, like a circus master with a comma for a whip. This is a book full of darkness, laughs and dark laughs. Personal truths by a man whose love of language is ultimately the protagonist', VANITY FAIR
'[Gill] writes passionately and movingly about his struggle with dyslexia; disarmingly and defensively about his lifelong feelings of intellectual insecurity; evocatively about his relationships with his parents and the disappearance of his brother . . . stirringly about his love of journalism . . . It might not all be beautiful; it might not all be true. But that does little to diminish the pleasure to be found in its story' -- Matthew Adams, INDEPENDENT
'Fluent, cocky and dense with gags . . . he is a brilliant raconteur, and a gifted satirist of place and person. He is also, perhaps through a history of AA meetings (those initials are well chosen), unafraid to take risks of self-exposure. The baroque debauchery of his drinking days gives way to frank and often moving examinations of his growing up . . . his loves and lusts and marriages, and his own efforts at fatherhood: the role that has done most to keep him sober' -- Tim Adams, OBSERVER
'As readers of Gill's journalism will expect, Pour Me is alert, emphatic, mordant, unforgiving. It is often moving, but never tries to be likeable. Honesty about alcoholism is not its chief attraction. It is a full-blooded retrospective by a man aged 61, who has travelled in remote and dangerous places, and has considered most human possibilities. He apologises for his book being insufficiently amusing ("it's about me, and I'm not really funny"), but his gallows comedy gives a hefty kick, many sections are beautifully droll, and some scenes are hilarious' -- Richard Davenport-Hines, SUNDAY TIMES
'In this chilling, exquisitely moving book, Gill defines the seductive, addictive and destructive power of drink . . . Gill's trademark is slamming the truth down hard on the page. It is his honesty that accounts for the intensity of this haunting memoir . . . and although he says this is not a funny book, it is . . . there are meditative passages of beauty here . . . A book that began by discussing lost time becomes one of recovered time, of a new way of life that is worth not only living but also celebrating' -- Juliet Nicolson, DAILY TELEGRAPH
'It's an intense, succulent read that's intermittently dazzling - 250 pages about a young life nullified by anxiety and addiction and not one cliche, each sentence earning its keep. Gill's regular readers might expect that but his willingness to expose his deepest insecurities, his apparent belief that, even now, he's an imposter, method-acting being normal, makes him newly vulnerable . . . There's no triumphant, teary-eyed conclusion: Gill says he's still no clearer on whether he drank because he was anxious and depressed or that he was anxious and depressed because he drank. As he says, it probably doesn't matter. What he knows is that for all his success now, he will always mourn the blackout of those years, the prime decade of his life just a cigar box of dog-eared postcards and incoherent memories. The saddest thing of all, it turns out, is absence' -- Carol Midgley, THE TIMES
'Pour Me, Gill's sweet-sour memoir of his drinking days and subsequent reform . . . is a delight. In pages of well-turned anecdote, Gill chronicles a rackety life made good. The book is nicely designed, moreover, and I liked the discussions of, among other things, the difficulties of parenting and marriage in late middle age' -- Ian Thomson, SPECTATOR
'This tonic memoir is the absolute works . . . As an autobiographer, A.A. Gill is unhampered by introspection. He observes his former self from without, dispassionately, unsparingly, as if grimacing at some squalid exhibit in memory's museum, an exhibit from a different age that has little to do with the successful, prolific sexagenarian journalist and random stirrer. Indeed he's promiscuously interested in just about everything save himself. The scope of his knowledge is phenomenal . . . His descriptive prose is polychromatic and specific. He is impatient with 'impressionistic' approximations . . . He judges neither himself nor others . . . The aberrant behaviour, the bodily dysfunctions, the wondering how you ended up here, with these people you have never seen before - all this is recalled with impeccably grim comic timing' -- Jonathan Meades, COUNTRY LIFE
'A superb memoir - and one of the best books on addiction I have ever read . . . beautifully written. Gill describes many things - people, works of art, parts of London - wonderfully well. He says he wanted to be an artist. He is - with words' -- William Leith, EVENING STANDARD
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Whilst writing the book, Gill was clearly very aware of his mortality, having been diagnosed with the “full English” of cancers that would kill him before many of us were able to finish the book.
The result is not a maudlin recollection but rather a celebration of a life well spent, and decisively reconfigured after the dark drinking days which open the history but do not dominate it.
In telling us the story, Gill jumps from school, to home, to work, to rehab and back. More like Slaughter House Five than a traditional biography. The time traveller can see all history at once, as per Vonnegut, and what he sees is that that redemption is an altered awareness of what is important and, as per Emerson, or whoever said it, life is a journey not a destination.
The deepest despairs before Gill finally gives up the drink, and the circling of the drain which lead up to it, are mirrored almost exactly with the accession through career and family to the fine appreciation of meaning. The well connected, celebrity status of later years are equally offset by the troubled, lonely and meandering early years.
As a reader, you're with him all the way.
The author at times alludes to what might have caused his alcoholism. Was it rejection, loss, his almost ironic dyslexia, a precursor to his fabulous prose, or even, almost as footnote in the final chapter, an inability to cope with boredom? If there is one thing his later life never is, it is boring. Gill vividly captures the variety and excitement of the major events in his life, but also the minor moments of kindness and intimacy which in the end, lead him to reflect on a life well lived.
A masterclass in writing, and a riveting description of a truly fascinating life.
Someone much wiser than myself has once said that, the works that are written in order to impress others, scripts written because 'ah this would make 'em laugh', basically works written with overwhelming care of what others might think when they read them, are cynical exercises that will never work. Works that are for the ages and for repeated visits over and over again are works written by people with supreme intelligence- and they would be the last ones to really care about that- who are just trying to amuse themselves. AA Gill has never worried about what others might think of him. He never wrote due to his dyslexia, he constructed those blindingly stunning passages in his head and simply have them transcribed. They came out just so, no correction and no cutting and pasting. How the hell did he do that? And I still cannot believe that we are now left behind to read and reread all the works that he has left, and forever denied more of his incredible words. Is it true that there is a power greater than us and it tends to be envious of the exceptionally gifted? This memoir is no more than what I have come to expect from A. A. Gill, sardonic, intelligent, sumptuously written - oh how he would have hated to be described thus, dark, funny, darkly funny; he mourns the loss of the those years spent in alcoholic haze, yet somehow find such a way to describe it that I will not ruin it by trying to mention them here. so, read the book, and go to all his other books and read them all over again.
Top international reviews
Before reading this book I had no idea of his battle against alcoholism and drugs, and I admire him for his painfully truthful account of that time in his life and then overcoming it. We hear a lot about his father, but his mother (who didn't want to be in the story) doesn't feature often -- a pity: I would have loved to know more about her. Adrian Gill is a creature cut from a different cloth than others -- a trait I always enjoy among a world of rather boring and ordinary people. Yet below the surface of his tale, told with amazing eloquence and intelligence, I sense a certain loneliness, reminiscent of the true anchorite. But with AA Gill you can never be sure of anything, and I might be wrong.
In this memoir, A. A. Gill's vulnerability comes through with aching honesty and acute perception, overriding the sometimes cruel, acerbic writing that is a hallmark of some of his journalistic work.
His mastery of the english language is used with joy and exuberance, evoking people, place and time in 'technicolor' clarity. Being of the same era, as well an art student in London during the same period, I was able to personally relate to a large chunk of his memoir which conjured up those student years brilliantly for me.
I loved this book. The virtuosity of his prose has, for me, an almost poetic clarity, and I found his honesty and vulnerability deeply moving. I'll be reading it again shortly!