Magazine article The Spectator

'Pour Me: A Life', by A.A. Gill - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'Pour Me: A Life', by A.A. Gill - Review

Article excerpt

Pour Me: A Life A.A. Gill

Weidenfeld, pp.241, £20, ISBN: 9780297870821

Often, Christmas is a time for moaning after the night before, when the seasonal drinking is remembered (if remembered at all) with bewilderment and a degree of guilt. The illusion of drink-fuelled happiness -- what James Joyce called 'tighteousness' -- is familiar to most of us, even if the hangover seems a cruel price. The most effective remedy for a thumping head is to take a hair of the dog that bit you. Eddie Condon, the jazzman, recommended two quarts of bourbon; Samuel Taylor Coleridge swore by a breakfast of laudanum and fried eggs.

By rights, the hangover should curb further drinking. Nobody wants to see their tongue pale and furry again in the bathroom mirror. The 17th-century word for the sickness attendant on excessive drinking, 'crapula', accurately hints at a sleazy kind of stupor. Misery may tread fast on the heels of joy, but some of us drink as though immune from the wall-eyed hangover of tomorrow. Alcohol impels us to happy flights of the imagination and encourages a sprightly chitchat. The unvarnished truth is that alcohol can also bring a nasty little crapula.

Like many alcoholics, the journalist Adrian Gill indulged in long-drawn-out benders with fewer and fewer intervals of sobriety in between. In 1984, at the age of 30, he realised that liquor had got him well and truly licked, and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. With the help of an AA sponsor he '12-stepped' his way to recovery and, in gratitude, re-named himself A.A. Gill. He is now a highly paid (if sometimes highly annoying) restaurant and television critic for the Sunday Times.

Pour Me , Gill's sweet-sour memoir of his drinking days and subsequent reform, is dedicated to 'the friends of Bill'. Bill Wilson was the American businessman who, in 1935, co-founded AA. As a long-time 'friend of Bill', Gill is understandably reticent about the details of his recovery or who turns up at his meetings because membership insists on anonymity (and nobody likes a grass). On the other hand, Gill does not flinch from describing the accidents, illnesses, social impairments and other damage done by the years of addiction. Unable to look a decent breakfast in the face, Gill was, by his own admission, a hopeless lush. …

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