SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2016 PEN ACKERLEY PRIZE
'An intense, succulent read that's intermittently dazzling' THE TIMES
'Chilling, exquisitely moving' DAILY TELEGRAPH
'A superb memoir - and one of the best books on addiction I have ever read' EVENING STANDARD
A. A. Gill's memoir begins in the dark of a dormitory with six strangers. He is an alcoholic, dying in the last-chance saloon. He tells the truth - as far as he can remember it - about drinking and about what it is like to be drunk. He recalls the lost days, lost friends, failed marriages ... But there was also an 'optimum inebriation, a time when it was all golden'.
Sobriety regained, there are painterly descriptions of people and places, unforgettable musings about childhood and family, art and religion; and most movingly, the connections between his cooking, dyslexia and his missing brother.
Full of raw and unvarnished truths, exquisitely written throughout, POUR ME is about lost time and self-discovery. Lacerating, unflinching, uplifting, it is a classic about drunken abandon.
A. A. Gill (1954-2016) was born in Edinburgh. He was the TV and restaurant critic and regular features-writer for the Sunday Times, a columnist for Esquire and contributor to Australian Gourmet Traveller. He was the author of A. A. Gill is Away, The Angry Island, Previous Convictions, Table Talk, Paper View, A. A. Gill is Further Away and The Golden Door, as well as two novels and the memoir Pour Me, which was shortlisted for the 2016 PEN Ackerley Prize. Lines in the Sand, a collection of his journalism in recent years, will be published in 2017.
'His mind, officially measured as off the Mensa scale, is an object of wonder. But it swivels everywhere like a dropped high-pressure hosepipe . . . Gill is explosive. God knows what a frightening thing he must have been in drink. He is bad enough as a dry drunk, the kind of sober person who gets thrown out of restaurants (in his case, Gordon Ramsay's). But the end of the book dwells on a recently evolved philanthropic side to Gill's character. He has become very anxious about the world. He travels to awful places, eloquently and genuinely compassionate with the suffering he witnesses there ... One deduces that he has transcended his suffering but he now has a hypersensitive sympathy with the suffering of others. A A Gill is 61, 30 years sober and surviving. Those who admire him (and I am one) will not merely read him over the years to come but follow him wherever he is now going. It will, one guesses, be an interesting journey' — John Sutherland, NEW STATESMAN
'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
'Pour Me by the jounalist A.A. Gill is a sour-sweet memoir of his alcoholism and its attendant woes. Gill's early years of drinking brought only a squalid self-denial and low self-esteem; liquor had got him well and truly licked. Often funny, the book is dedicated to the "friends of Bill", after the Bill Wilson who, in 1935, co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous' — THE TABLET
'Funny, infuriating and moving' — CATHOLIC HERALD
'The restaurant and television critic defines the seductive power of drink in this amusing, exquisitely moving memoir about alcoholism, full of riffs and detours, from Gill's parents' affairs while he was a child to his own first shaky detox days. His verbal dexterity is all the more remarkable for his dyslexia, the "wordcurdling" from which he has suffered since he was a schoolboy' — DAILY TELEGRAPH
'A.A. Gill's new memoir Pour Me is a prodigiously well-penned tale of addiction, misery, shame and rehabilitation - sometimes pompous, sometimes self-lacerating, but always unflinching and gripping' — MR HYDE
'A.A. Gill hangs his ferociously entertaining autobiography on his youthful spell as an alcoholic . . . with grimly comic scenes from bars and clubs, and confused fragments in between blackouts, garishly lit by guilt and shame . . . But Pour Me is more than an extended act of "sharing" at an AA meeting . . . He also writes about many aspects of his life that are much more interesting than his drinking, such as his family . . . He writes brilliantly about art - in a superb account of Gericault's 'Raft of the Medusa', for example - as he does about anything he turns his hand to, most surprisingly the plight of refugees. He has a terrific relish for simile . . . His favourite is "like a slap", which is what his writing is like; that or an electric shock: in any case, always stimulating' — Lewis Jones, THE OLDIE
'Gill's memoir, Pour Me, focuses on his alcoholism and recovery from an earlier exclusive view of his own mortality. Like all his writings it combines a willingness to say the unsayable, and an intention to say it colourfully . . . it evokes a character of fearless intelligence, determined to find out everything for himself, and happy to tweak sensibilities along the way' — David Horspool, TLS