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Previous Convictions: Assignments From Here and There Paperback – 22 Aug 2007
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Gill manages to be entertaining and evocative in a way that puts supposedly literary writers to shame (HERALD)
The second collection of travel writing (and other essays) by Britain's funniest and most feared critic.See all Product description
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It is not, however, a book which I can enjoy reading for any length of time, and that can be put down to a number of reasons. It must be admitted, I accept, that Gill is an excellent prose stylist, but there is at times a slight glibness about the writing that suggests deep and meaningful insights, but they are never really developed or rewarded. The description is frequently masterful: Gill's evocation of the appalling squalor of Haiti is striking, but it often ends there. But these merits cannot carry the book as a whole.
For this book can never really be successful as a book, simply because of its origins. These are journalistic pieces, and must perforce lack the thoroughness and rigour of more literary writing, regardless of the panache of the prose. When Gill writes about his father's dementia (in what is a touching and thoughtful piece), the reader is offered no more than a brief vignette, with no more than a passing gesture towards the wider issues which the article raises.
So, a recommendation? For holiday reading, or to take on the train, this is a very good book. As a book itself, it is frustrating.
It's a nice set which ranges over a variety of topics in the "here" section, and some good travel pieces filed under "there". They're all easy to read, although sometimes their brevity leaves you wanting more (I thought his essays on Las Vegas and Haiti very good). And I still think he's a good stylist (though I wouldn't rate him, as one reviewer claims, one of the "best in Britain"). In particular, his description (p192) of a capable game ranger as "a man who can handle a hysterical couple from Dundee and a surprised hippo", had me smiling broadly.
Mr Gill only has one technique for writing and unfortunately it becomes rather predictable after the first chapter or so.
I also find that he's not particularly funny unless you are 16 years of age and in the habit of wearing a baseball cap backwards.
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