Previous Convictions by A.A. Gill (2006) 270 p.

There’s not much to say about this that I didn’t already say in my brief review of A.A. Gill Is Away. Gill is a travelling journalist (as opposed to a “travel writer”) who pens short articles that are both very funny and very serious. This compendium (which at least three separate people mistook for Bear Grylls’ autobiography; personally I think he more closely resembles Ralph Fiennes) sees him wandering around Glastonbury, reflecting on Edward Hopper, examining the wonderful contents of the Royal Geographic Society, seeing somebody murdered in the slums of Haiti, training to be a bush guide in South Africa, and much, much more. Each chapter is titled with a location, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a travel piece – ‘New York,’ for example, is about gyms:

The great misconception about gyms is that they’re palaces of vanity, theatres of self love, where the shallow preen and pump in front of ten-foot mirrors with devoted narcissism. Actually, it’s precisely the opposite. Gyms vibrate with self-loathing and doubt. The mirrors mock. People come because they’re disgusted by or frightened of their bodies. Going to a gym is an admission of failure. It’s the realisation that you’re not forever youthfully regenerating. Your body isn’t a temple to fun and fornication anymore; it’s a decrepit, leaky, condemned shell that is decomposing faster than you can shore it up.

Gill is one of the best, funniest, and most honest and most distinctively voiced journalists working today, and all his output is well worth reading.

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