AA Gill is Further Away by AA Gill (2012) 270 p.
Another excellent collection of AA Gill’s travel columns and opinion pieces, one of the only contemporary journalists whose prose is actually worth gathering up in a volume. AA Gill is Further Away is divided into two halves, “Near” and “Far,” with “Near” collecting stories from England and “Far” containing more general foreign travel narratives.
On the whole I enjoyed the English pieces better, as they range across topics as diverse as sustainable fishing, plastic surgery for burned WWII airmen, chicken breeding and dyslexia. There’s a marvellous love letter to Hyde Park, its “open plains and secret dells, wild places, ruins and follies, fountains and palaces.” One of the best articles is an exploration of the Battle of Towton, Britain’s bloodiest in history, yet largely forgotten.
The reason Towton hasn’t come down the ages to us may be in part that it was in the middle of the War of Roses, that complex internecine bout of patrician bombast, a hissy fit that stuttered and smouldered through the exhausted fag end of the Middle Ages like a gang feud. The War of Roses have no heroes; there are no good guys and precious little romance. They’re as complicated and brain-aching as Russian novels and pigeon breeding.
The second half consists largely of more typical travel articles, but still have a few gems, such as his trip to Svalbard, his coverage of the 2008 US elections, or his analysis of Dubai:
Dubai has been built very fast. The plan was money. The architect was money. The designer and the builder was money. And if you ever wondered what money would look like if it were left to its own devices, the answer is Dubai.
Enjoyable and illuminating as always.