An ardent mash note to the vast, vital nation that confounds and beguiles its European cousins in equal measure.
Gill (A.A. Gill Is Further Away, 2012, etc.) celebrates America’s natural bounty, its lack of pretention and hidebound tradition, the dizzying diversity of its people and its startling capacity for invention in a series of witty, discursive considerations of the national character, as reflected by such American signifiers as guns, skyscrapers, movies and moonshine. The author provides engrossing accounts of historical events, including the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the Scopes Monkey trial, distinguished by richly drawn portraits of the familiar figures involved and Gill’s erudite but accessible prose style, which flits from arresting profundity to cheeky humor to wrenching pathos. The collection alternates memoir with examinations of American history and institutions; Gill’s tales of his encounters with Appalachian moonshiners and Harlem barbers are warmly funny and rendered with the attention to detail of a fine short story. The author never condescends to his subjects or settles for juicy anecdotes; his brief is an appreciation of America as an expression of the sublime, a transcendent emotional response to the world that goes beyond the studied, safely curated idea of “beauty” as idealized by Old World European culture. Gill finds the sublime in American thought, writing and art, in its love of talk and argument, in its refusal to venerate the past above the promise of the future, in all of its lunatic variety and conflict and ambition. It’s a passionate, richly literary love letter to a place and idea that remains unique in the history of the world.
A stirring, funny, thought-provoking appreciation of the place, the idea, the experiment, the United States of America.