A romcom it is not but A.A. Gill’s POUR ME: A LIFE is one of the better books into the bowels of alcoholism. This time told by author, television and food critic A.A. Gill. and the journey itself is his. I don’t know what would make someone look at a book, an alcohol memoir (if you will) and say “yes I wanna read that.” I suppose if you know someone battling their demons or if you love the author maybe? All I can see is a harrowing read.
This is why I didn’t review this one and Kernel Fi did. She loves the book and I quote “POUR ME: A LIFE is written in a beautifully eloquent style almost bordering on the philosophical.” POUR ME: A LIFE has been out since the beginning of the year from Hachette Australia. You should find this in most bookstores or you can obtain it HERE. Enjoy Fi’s thoughts………..all the best………….JK.
This is a memoir about alcoholism. For anyone who has known an alcoholic or who has battled with their own amber liquid demons, you will easily relate to the author’s account of falling chronically off the wagon and his subsequent journey to sobriety.
POUR ME: A LIFE is an eye-witness account of being permanently sloshed. The book begins in a dank, depressing dormitory with six alcoholic strangers. It is essentially a hospital ward or old-fashioned rehab facility and A.A. Gill finds himself there, at the tender age of thirty, battling with a disease that threatens to claim his liver and destroy his life.
And so begins a dark voyage through failed relationships, blackouts and despair as the author confronts the alcohol ravaged life he has created for himself and the one-way streets it has led him down. There is great insight here as Gill examines just how close he came to ruining his health and his life by relying so heavily on the bottle. He reflects on the morning after his first wife leaves him and says “ almost everyone has found drinking and unrequited love is not a great cocktail. … booze is a depressant…the symptoms of getting drunk are [that] initially, fleetingly, it offers a lift, a sense of transient joy….but this is just the free offer to snag a punter.”
ABOUT A.A. GILL:
A.A Gill is the author of A.A GILL IS AWAY, PREVIOUS CONVICTIONS, THE ANGRY ISLAND, THE GOLDEN DOOR, A.A GILL IS FURTHER AWAY, PAPER VIEW and TABLE TALK. He is known mostly as a television and restaurant critic and his regular features in the Sunday Times pit him against Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson for the last twenty odd years.
Gill laments the fact that while alcoholics come to rely on booze as a life support system, they turn themselves into those people who are unworthy of sympathy because of their wanton self-inflicted piss-ups. What is far worse than this, however, is the bottomless depression and sheer self-loathing that the drunk feels. No one else’s disgust or moralising can quite compare to the hatred the drunk feels for himself. “The angst followed me home like a hungry dog and whined and scratched at the door. You can’t abstain from sadness, you can’t renounce it or give it up a day at a time.”
POUR ME: A LIFE examines the depths of depression and the black dog that ruthlessly waits and pounces on its victims. “All misery is bankrupt. All depression paints every room grey, makes cornflakes and caviar taste the same.” And somehow the drunk finds himself falling into a mindless cycle of revelry followed by incredible hang overs and lows so vast that it seems the light at the end of the tunnel was just a myth.
Married with the wretchedness is not only the physical decline of the mind and body, but the memory-erasing blackouts. What did you say? Who did you make a pass at? Does the forgetting exonerate you somehow? “I met a man who’d spent a long weekend as a murder suspect after a girl was strangled at a party he didn’t remember being at. He had no alibi – nothing. Worse was that, being confronted with the possibility that he’d raped and throttled a young stranger, he couldn’t in his drunken heart of hearts in all honesty say it was impossible.”
Gill recognises that he can’t attribute his drinking to a particular childhood tragedy or to having had a rotten family life. His major pain in later life was caused by the disappearance of his beloved brother, Nick, who told Gill that he was planning to head to France and not come back. Nick was a celebrated chef and Gill cites his brother’s influence as one of the main reasons for his own passion for everything culinary. He says that “the bits of our brains that we use to judge and recognise food, our senses of smell and taste and appetite, are older than the bits of our heads we use for language…they are older than our humanity.” Nick’s disappearance and the constant wondering whether he is alive or dead still plagues Gill. He still holds out hope that Nick will one day call him because he misses him.
POUR ME: A LIFE is written in a beautifully eloquent style almost bordering on the philosophical. It is in retrospect and often with regretful hindsight that we can see the error of our ways even if sometimes it is too late to make amends. In writing this book, Gill says he hoped to find some answers to his booze-addled early years and his reckless drug taking. He doesn’t feel that he has been able to decipher the reasons behind his particular pathology or collection of calamitous behaviours.
“I misused a life for 30 years and I had 30 more of a second chance that I used better, though not as well as I might.” Sober since about 1986, he has gone on to fill his world with television critiquing, culinary adventures and dining at fine restaurants. He says his travelling and experiences have allowed him a window onto situations that are usually only known to journalists, missionaries and soldiers. He is grateful for that opportunity. As he says, “pick up more people as you go along, the lost, the becalmed, the desperate, the ones thrown overboard, the garrulous, the fun and the beautiful…we are all in the same boat, all refugees from the past trying to find a home.”
Kernel Fiona was a criminal defence lawyer in a former life and now critiques books and writes short stories. She can’t resist spending large tracts of time in libraries, book shops and at writer’s festivals. Hopelessly in love with the written word, she told JK when applying for a writing position that “I would rather read then breathe” – I knew I had my next reviewer right then. You can catch her and her tweets at @FionaJayneFyfe1
** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.