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The late columnist AA Gill's tongue-in-cheek advice column lives again in Uncle Dysfunctional.
Canongate Books/Allen & Unwin
The late A.A. Gill, who died of cancer last year, was a well-known author, columnist and TV and restaurant critic in Britain. In fact, his uncompromising opinions and excruciating put-downs were notorious. Woe betide any restaurateur or programme-maker who failed to rise to his exacting standards, or anyone else whose conduct aroused his indignation.
But the flip-side of his poison pen was huge entertainment value for the reader and this he delivered in spades. Known for his sterling prose, his passing has been mourned by many and some flattering things have been written about him by esteemed literary figures.
Uncle Dysfunctional is the name of a tongue-in-cheek advice column he wrote for Esquire and this book offers a selection of them. The sub-title, Uncompromising Answers to Life’s Most Painful Problems, should give some clue as to what to expect.
Although Gill made up the questions, that doesn’t diminish the wit of the answers, the beautifully crafted phrasing or luscious vocab. He’s also gobsmackingly crude — I didn’t know there were so many nicknames and euphemisms for genitalia — but it’s all so damn clever and funny that he gets away with it. Let’s just say there are some new terms waiting to be discovered if you dip into this book.
The subject matter ranges from rude to ridiculous as he addresses an eye-watering selection of private ailments and peccadilloes, contemporary predicaments, romantic entanglements and self-serving behaviours. Politics and religion aren’t spared either, and Trump gets a serve in the final pages, as well he should.
But every now and again some touching wisdom transcends the bon mots and takes you by surprise. I didn’t expect a writer of such waspish intellect to have anything profound or moving to say about God or love or loyalty or, astonishingly, feminism. And when he does, it’s so well written you stop and go back and read those passages again.
If you enjoy saucy humour, unexpected insights and top-shelf writing, I’d recommend Uncle Dysfunctional, but be careful where you leave it lying around!
- Caroline Hunter is an ODT subeditor.