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A. A. Gill is one of the most feared writers in London, noted--according to the New York Times--for his "rapier wit. " Some even consider the mere assignment of a subject to Gill a hostile act. But when the notice "AA GILL IS AWAY" runs in the Sunday Times of London, the city can rest peacefully in the knowledge that the writer is off traveling. "My editor asked me what I wanted from journalism and I said the first thing that came into my head--I'd like to interview places. To treat a place as if it were a person, to go and listen to it, ask it questions, observe it the way you would interview a politician or a pop star," Gill writes. Upon his return, readers are treated to an account of his vacations to places like famine-stricken Sudan, the pornography studios of California's San Fernando Valley, the dying Aral Sea or the seedy parts of Kaliningrad. The result is one of the most fascinating, stylish and irreverent collections of travel writing.
The English are naturally, congenitally, collectively and singularly, livid much of the time. In between the incoherent bellowing of the terraces and the pursed, rigid eye-rolling of the commuter carriage, they reach the end of their tethers and the thin end of their wedges. They're incensed, incandescent, splenetic, prickly, touchy and fractious. They sit apart on their half of a damply disappointing little island, nursing and picking at their irritations. Perhaps aware that they're living on top of a keg of fulminating fury, the English have, throughout their history, come up with hundreds of ingenious and bizarre ways to diffuse anger or transform it into something benign. Good manners and queues, roundabouts and garden sheds, and almost every game ever invented from tennis to bridge. They've built things, discovered stuff, made puddings, written hymns and novels, and for people who don't like to talk much, they have come up with the most minutely nuanced and replete language ever spoken - just so there'll be no misunderstandings. In this hugely witty, personal and readable book, AA Gill looks anger and the English straight in the eye.
Think of England, and anger hardly springs to mind as its primary national characteristic. Yet in The Angry Island, A. A. Gill argues that, in fact, it is plain old fury that is the wellspring for England's accomplishments. The default setting of England is anger. The English are naturally, congenitally, collectively and singularly livid much of the time. They're incensed, incandescent, splenetic, prickly, touchy, and fractious. They can be mildly annoyed, really annoyed and, most scarily, not remotely annoyed. They sit apart on their half of a damply disappointing little island, nursing and picking at their irritations. The English itch inside their own skins. They feel foreign in their own country and run naked through their own heads. Perhaps aware that they're living on top of a keg of fulminating fury, the English have, throughout their history, come up with hundreds of ingenious and bizarre ways to diffuse anger or transform it into something benign. Good manners and queues, cul-de-sacs and garden sheds, and almost every game ever invented from tennis to bridge. They've built things, discovered stuff, made puddings, written hymns and novels, and for people who don't like to talk much, they have come up with the most minutely nuanced and replete language ever spoken -- just so there'll be no misunderstandings. The Angry Island by turns attacks and praises the English, bringing up numerous points of debate for Anglophiles and anyone who wonders about the origins of national identity. This book hunts down the causes and the results of being the Angry Island.
Critic, essayist and cultural savant A. A. Gill is probably the most widely read columnist in Britain. His books The Angry Island and A. A. Gill is away have found delighted fans in America as well, and sparked a loyal following. His new book of travel essays, Previous Convictions, ranges from Gill's nearby domestic locales of Glastonbury and the English countryside to Haiti, Guatemala, Pakistan and exotic, dangerous, downtown Manhattan. In this collection of notes from the corners of the globe, and sometimes from the edge of sanity, he confesses about his travels far and wide, "The more I see of the world, the less I think I understand. Familiarity breeds even more astonishment. The world just gets wider and deeper and weirder. "These pieces are wickedly funny, sometimes pointedly -- even purposely -- critical of many cultures and traditions, and always edifying and enchanting. As an adventurer and as a writer, Gill never disappoints; while he may take others to task for their customs, habits, idiosyncrasies and plain bad taste, his own indefatigable curiosity keeps him going back again and again for more, and provides us with spectacular entertainment along the way.
A celebrated British provocateur and Vanity Fair columnist serves up an "immensely entertaining book inspired by his love and knowledge of America" (Sunday Times, London).From Tocqueville to Sacha Baron Cohen, sometimes it takes an outsider to show us who we really are. In To America With Love, acclaimed British humorist A.A. Gill traverses the Pond to become the freshest chronicler of American identity in recent memory. With a fiery temper, sharp-tongued wit, and an insatiable curiosity to figure out what makes more than 300 million of the world's population tick, Gill traces the history and logic of our nation's habits, collecting fascinating stories and startling facts along the way. From Kentucky, where he visits the Creationist Museum and drinks moonshine with a hog farmer, to Harlem, where he misses a turn and stumbles into the wrong barber shop for a once-in-a-lifetime haircut, Gill embarks on a tour not only of the nation's landscape but also its psyche, playing adventurer, philosopher, statistician, and raconteur all at once. The result is arresting, unique, and often hilarious. In inimitable fashion, he explains why pressing a button in a Manhattan elevator means entering into a social contract of American etiquette and inverting conventional hierarchies of space; why browsing through Playboy centerfolds becomes the perfect litmus test for a generation's political views; and how Hollywood has become the place where Americans are taught how to dream the American dream. "As craftily observant and intelligently witty as ever" (Esquire, UK), Gill ultimately captures the scope and spirit of a nation that began as a conceptual experiment and became a political, scientific, and cultural fortress. To America With Love shows us why we are who we are--and reminds us why it is, after all, great to be an American.
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