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Drink and dyslexia

Books | December 2015

Lewis Jones on Pour Me A Life by A A Gill

Weidenfeld & Nicolson £20

Oldie price £17 (+p&p). Call 01326 555 762 to order

A A Gill hangs his ferociously entertaining autobiography on his youthful spell as an alcoholic, hence its title, which is quite the worst thing about it. He insists that it is not a misery memoir or, as he puts it with typical delicacy, a book to give ‘the friend who struggles with his cravings like a randy fat girl squealing “no, no, no” as her hand shimmies up your shirt’. Unavoidably, though, to some extent it is.

He remembers little of his lost decade – now sixty, he has been sober for thirty years – but nonetheless rehearses the usual repertoire of the ex-drunk, with grimly comic scenes from bars and clubs, and confused fragments between blackouts, garishly lit by guilt and shame. He rakes over ‘the pathetic ashes of my life, in all its grubby, foul-breathed motiveless hopelessness’, and declares that giving up drink was ‘a born-again new person makeover’. But Pour Me is more than an extended act of ‘sharing’ at an AA meeting. (Does he introduce himself there as ‘I’m A A’? Given his inordinate egotism and delight in wince-making puns, he probably does.)