The Essential A.A. Gill

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A.A. Gill was fearsomely well-travelled. As he wrote in the introduction to his first anthology ‘A.A. Gill is Away’, one of his ambitions when he started out was to ‘interview places’ – he wanted to go somewhere, get under its skin, ask it questions, find out what made it tick. And he turned out to be a genius at this: he could make you look at the familiar with completely fresh insight, and bring the unknown into vivid focus. This theme of travel – loosely interpreted – forms the heart of the next A. A. Gill anthology. Many of the stories he investigated still hold a real relevance: his article on the Rohingyas from 2014, for example, massively predated their situation, becoming a news story over here. His 2016 investigation of the wave of refugees into Mexico still casts a new light on a story that feeds into Donald Trump’s border wall. There are some astounding set-pieces: Haile Selassie’s funeral in Ethiopia; or Christmastime in Bethlehem at the turn of the millennium. Others are simply fun: Las Vegas, or a nudist beach in Greece with Jeremy Clarkson. And some of his travelling took place closer to home: a raucous night out in Humberside; joining a fishing trawler as it sets out from Scarborough into the North Sea; a reflective day spent exploring the life of Hyde Park.Of course, the subject that many people associate with Adrian Gill is restaurant and food writing: the advantage of framing this book with travel at its heart is that it allows the inclusion of the more spectacular of his restaurant reviews – whether he is travelling to an appalling Welsh hotel, or sitting down to the last ever night at El Bulli. His brilliant and hilarious dissections of different cuisines – Greek, French, Japanese – manage to get under the skin of nations simply by looking at what is on their plate.The Next Best of A.A. Gill collects some of his greatest writing – not a standard set of travel pieces, but subjects pulled from around the world that show all the different facets of the way he wrote: adventurous, funny, wise and always curious.]]>