A A Gill Is Further Away: Helping With Enquiries, By A A Gill

Travelling gracelessly with A A Gill

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The Independent Culture

As a Welshman, I already know that A A Gill regards me as an "ugly, pugnacious little troll". Fair enough. Misanthropy can be entertaining, and in any case, his treatment of the English has been equally scathing. My problem is that his criticism is not always so even-handed. He is cruel about women who don't match his ideal of femininity – the historian Mary Beard, for example, recently attracted his ire for appearing on TV without enough make-up – but never questions his own aspirations to rugged machismo.

That imbalance is much in evidence in this collection of articles, in which our heroic hack describes his travels in places from Madagascar to Algeria to Svalbard. Gill larks about with the lads, mocking those excluded from the fun with a gracelessness worthy of Jeremy Clarkson; on a fishing trip, he compares the trailing net to "toilet paper caught in a fat girl's knickers".

On previous occasions, Gill's brilliant style has redeemed him somewhat, but the writing here seems unusually lax. A journey to the Arctic, he says, requires the "propitiation of kit" – I'm not sure that's what he means, exactly, unless he's been sweet-talking his crampons – and there is also a sprinkling of factual errors (Albert Camus did not play "in goal for Algeria in the World Cup").

Perhaps that title, with its answer-machine tone, is more apposite than Gill realised – because in these pieces, he's definitely phoning it in.