19 Dec 2010

A.A.Gill and Previous Convictions

Adrian Anthony Gill is a British writer, of Scottish origin, who signs his articles and books as A.A.Gill. He writes regularly for the Sunday Times newspaper and magazine as restaurant and television critic, but also on a far-ranging set of subjects. He is the exact opposite of “politically correct” (thank goodness) and his bold, often scathing and satirical style, has earned him all kinds of trouble with some of those to whom he has caused offense, including various ethnic and sexual groups. Well, you don't make omelettes without breaking a few eggs.

I recently read a collection of his articles in a cleverly titled book called “Previous Convictions”, and was very impressed not only by his renowned and sometimes feared humour, but also by his style, his sense of a formula, his descriptive capacity, and, more surprisingly, his considerable ability for empathy with subjects that truly deserve it, such as the sufferings of Sudan, or the horrors of Haiti. He has no time for those he considers to be fools, and unmasks pretention with a whip of the pen. This book regularly had me rolling on the floor with laughter and occasionally crying as well, as in his piece called Father, or that on the Sudan. Gill also apparently has the courage to go places and put himself in situations that would scare the rest of us shitless. How many of us would, for example, accept to put themselves in the window of an Amsterdam whoreshop and see what happens, or ride a tank into Baghdad during the war?

Here are a few extracts form a couple of the chapters to give you some idea.

1). Golf
"Golf is a game invented by the Scots to prove to the world what the English are really like. It seems almost unnecessary, de trop, to have to list all that is repellent about golf. It's like having to explain why eating people is wrong.....It ruins tracts of pefectly nice land and small country hotels. It is, by its very nature, the bottom line benchmark of tastelessness and naff. It is also overtly racist and class-ridden, groundlessly snobbish and humiliatingly sexist. Golf is the standard-bearer and pimp for the worst types of gratuitously wasteful capitalism and conspicuous consumption. Golf is wrist-gnawingly tedious to watch and disembowelling to listen to. It makes widows of decent women and de facto orphans of blameless children. And it fucks up baggage carousels. Golf is a fundamentally stupid game."
Yet Gill goes out and takes golf lessons to find out more, and this leads to further insight

2). Dog
"When you fall over and break your hip and can't reach the phone, your dog will try his damnedest to help. He'll bark and whine and wag. But when no one comes, have no doubts, he'll eat you. He's a dog....Dogs are bigger and better monsters than we can ever be. They've found the weakness in our huge brains: we're slaves to our sentiment and emotions. For dogs, we're just a ressource. We're prey."
What this extract does not tell you, but the piece does, is that Gill has a dog.

3). New York
In this piece Gill checks out New York gyms to try to "discover, uncover, exorcise what on earth New Yorkers thought they were doing". At one point in his investigation we get this: "I do secretly envy men who can unselfconsciously sit cupping their testicles while discussing hedge-fund mangement or some awesome new streches for avoiding groin strain. But I have a rule: never talk to a damp man without underpants on."

Do read on.....

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