So I was lucky enough to be lent a signed copy of AA Gill’s new book Pour Me A Life by a fellow Cambridge student who happens to be a friend of his and was at the book launch *thank you lovely person!* I’ve been busy reading it and have devoured it in between our course texts.
AA Gill has been in recovery for over thirty years and this book talks about one particular year between his wife leaving and entering rehab – but that’s not entirely true because this is an autobiography so we learn a great deal about him and his life leading up to that point. The book was an education where I learned about something I had experienced and couldn’t put into words – until now, Stendhal’s syndrome: being overcome by beauty. This happened to me at St Peter’s Church in the Vatican City in Rome …..
There were a couple of passages that really resonated so to wet your appetite (and not risk infringement of copyright!) I shall share just those and then links to some of the other reviews that have been written.
“It was for those whom the licensed day was not long enough to fit in the required pintage, for those of us who did alcohol overtime”
This next passage is beautiful and explains my experience of drinking so well:
“Booze is a depressant, a close relative of anaesthetic. The symptoms of getting drunk are like those of being put out for an operation – initially, fleetingly, it offers a lift, a sense of transient joy, of confident light-headed freedom, it’s a disinhibitor; relaxes your shyness and natural reserve so you can feel socially optimistic in a room, can make a pass, tell a joke, meet a stranger. But this is just the free offer to snag a punter. Drink is, at its dark, pickled heart, a sepia pessimist. It draws curtains, pulls up the counterpane. It smothers and softens and soothes. The bliss of drink is that it’s a small death. The difference between you and us, you civilian amateur hobbyist drinkers and us professional, committed indentured alcoholics is that you drink for the lightness, we drink for the darkness. You want to feel good we want to stop feeling bad. All addictions become not about nirvana, but maintenance. Not reaching for the stars but fixing the roof.”
This is what The Guardian had to say:
He delights in his own similes; they are produced one after the other as if spotlit and accompanied by canned laughter.
And The Telegraph:
And yet his inspirational passage on the joy of the English language, a thing “of peerless beauty and elegance”, should become a school-curriculum essential.
However, almost despite himself, his post-drinking life cannot fail to give hope to “those who still stagger” and despair.
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.
And you can read Mrs D is Going Without’s review here.
Hear hear! I love AA Gill’s writing & completely concur about his use of similes and that passage which displays his obvious delight in the English language. This book is well worth your time and money 🙂
Edited to add: 10/10/16
RIP AA Gill – you will be missed.