A.A. Gill at the Sydney Writers’ Festival

Went to see A.A. Gill, restaurant, TV and travel critic, at the Digital Dinosaurs talk, Sydney Writers’ Festival. [Coincidentally, have been watching Civilisation, Lord Kenneth Clark’s 1969 series, which was produced by his dad, Michael Gill.]

Gill was in great form and very witty (which I haven’t included here, it was “in the moment/context” wit.) He wasn’t in a dandy-ish outfit, but smart casual (white shirt, brown jacket, jeans.)

He hates the fact the internet means people write nasty comments, anonymously.

“What’s most distressing on the internet is ‘tone’. It could have been a place where people were nice to each other. The internet is a rabid, furious place. I find that disturbing. It gives you the chance to be as vile as possible while standing at the bus stop. Especially in comments at the bottom of the articles.”

“The internet is not a great egalitarian expression of democracy. It’s about lots of money and is owned by a few big corporations. Without an editor, the most vicious voices are dominant. The most outrageous opinions are the most reported.”

“A free press is the most precious thing you own. It still is what protects you and your ‘having a democracy’. A free capitalistic press is better than a government-owned press or a free internet that’s invigilated by noone.”

Re: bloggers. “They can’t write well. Their rubbishy attempts just make proper writers’ work look better. [His writing is behind The Times paywall.]”

“As a critic, my opinion is worth more than your opinion.”

“I don’t blog my opinions for free. I read newspapers, they’re much easier. I never have to ring a bloke who arrives on a motorbike, smells like a rabbit hutch and says: ‘Turn it on and off.’ ”

Re: Twitter. “Why do you want to know what people, who you are never going to know, think? Being able to tweet is not going to make you a good writer.”

“My publisher said to sell books I have to tweet. I thought to sell books you had to write them! I don’t even have to tweet myself, the publisher can get someone else to tweet for me!”

Also, being dyslexic, Gill said he finds it impossible to use Google as he can’t spell. He also can’t key in passwords that include numbers or  strings of numbers accurately.

A fantastic discussion.

As a fangrrl, I took along my copy of The Ivy (1999) for signing. Caused a kerfuffle in the queue as the others mistakenly thought I had an A.A. Gill book with *his* recipes, but I said it was the Ivy’s, to calm the melee. However, the book does include his detailed comments on the recipes, and personal suggestions.

I like A.A. Gill’s writing (and have most of his books) except for the occasional name-calling that goes too far, which The Times defends, probably because it’s part of that UK private school bullying mentality and they view it as humorous. The Press Complaints Commission (UK) even rules against him, but Gill and the paper are unrepentant. I think he can still be funny without overstepping the mark (eg. the satirical stylings of Craig Brown).

If you haven’t read A.A. Gill, he’s like a camp version of Jeremy Clarkson, except better writing, more knowledgeable and different topics (food, art, culture, TV, travel). Love his work, he makes me laugh.

2 thoughts on “A.A. Gill at the Sydney Writers’ Festival”

  1. Having been the Letters Editor on two newspapers, I often find myself wishing newspapers would scrap their live comment feeds and move to a moderated system akin to “Letters to the Editor”.

    Two of my guiding principles when assessing letters were, if supportive “does it add anything further to the debate” and if contrarian “does it present an informed, coherent argument”.

    Illiterate, stupid and vitriolic letters were usually spiked, although it was occasionally useful to publish them to make an indirect point. Letters whose authors couldn’t be verified were always spiked.

    Of course, newspapers aren’t going to move to a more moderated system as it would require trained, experienced editors and sub-editors spending a considerable amount of time copy tasting, fact checking, identity checking and sub-editing.

    All of that costs money so the beancounters will rule it out. After all, the rush to the bottom can’t be impeded in any way, shape or form.

    As for The Ivy, I have a signed copy, too. Scandinavian iced berries and AA Gill in one book: pure, unadulterated bliss.


  2. Not a big fan of A.A. Gill though. But this is a good review of him. A lot of people may hate him that much because of those things he have said on the media and done. But hey, he’s still famous and great. Going to read more of his books and works still. 🙂


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