When I saw that food critic A.A. Gill had written a memoir about his alcoholism, I knew I wanted to read it. But what I found in the pages was so much more! Originally serialized in the magazine Esquire, Pour Me, a Life is a roller coaster of a memoir, with more more ups and downs, more honesty and brilliance than most memoirs can dream of.
He starts out talking about his alcoholism, the brutality of its symptoms as well as its mundane daily indignities. And this is not easy reading. Between his wordiness and his openly sharing the pain of his addiction, it's difficult to get through the first part of the book. But if you're at all interested in personal memoirs, then keep reading. While the beginning of the book is good, it just keeps getting better.
As Gill keeps talking, he takes us through his art education, his family background, and his struggles with dyslexia. The depth and breadth of his knowledge of paintings, architecture, literature, food, and pop culture offer amazing insights into his life and his writing. The last third of the book focuses on what he is truly passionate about--journalism (which he discovered a talent for later in life) and his children. As he focuses more on the loves of his life, his prose becomes less wordy and more luminescent, and more of the human being comes across.
The Gill of the first third of his memoir is a man I probably wouldn't spend time with. The Gill in the middle of the book is someone I would find interesting. The Gill at the end of the book I would be honored to know. As he moves further from his years of addiction and schooling, he becomes more sure of himself, more decisive, and more likely to fight for what's important to him.
Gill found sobriety in his 30s, when a doctor's non-judgmental attempt to help him and Gill's honest self-reflection collided and he found himself in England's first 30-day treatment center. Fortunately for us all, he stayed sober ever since and went on to see the world and tell us all about it. While he was known for his humorous and scathing restaurant reviews for The Sunday London Times, he also wrote about his travels in war-torn countries, politics, and popular culture. We lost him to cancer late last year, far too soon (he was in his early 60s), but his words will live on, giving us all a glimpse into the fascinating, funny, brilliant, complicated man that he was.
Galleys for Pour Me, a Life were provided by the publisher through NetGalley.com.