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SWF 2011

SWF2011: A A Gill in conversation with Caroline Baum

Thursday, May 19, 2011

For a writer who once described eating a meal of Scottish smoked salmon filled with poached salmon "a bit like eating a soggy, pink scatter cushion", it's perhaps not surprising A A Gill has such a strong presence on stage. His interviewer, Caroline Baum, certainly had her work cut out for her.

Baum introduced Gill as one of "Britain's best paid dyslexics", an art student who eventually learnt to paint with words. (The first of many puns that Gill gleefully pulled her up on.) And it's clear this has influenced his writing - he admits to being a very visual writer. But this is one of the few times he allows Baum the privilege of a straight answer to her question. He proved to be a difficult interviewee, and he's certainly opinionated! One offering: "Australia should get your own f*cking flag."

From food to porn
Gill started his career as a food writer and segued into travel writing when his editor sent him to the Sudan to write a feature. He still writes for The Sunday Times and Vanity Fair and has published a number of collections of his columns. He is known for his satirical and humorous writing - but has also managed to offend various groups along the way.

He's also devoted much creative energy to the writing and producing of adult films - yes porn - and also devoted a lot of time in this session to talking about them. He proudly said: "I'm the only person on the history of porn to use my own name."

He gave his audience a glimpse of how he approaches travel writing, which he describes as "interviews with places". On researching a destination he said: "I travel with as few preconceptions as possible."

Approach to travel writing
To achieve this, he does very little research before visiting a new country. He also noted that the deadlines inherent in feature writing (whether for travel or food) drives him - the deadline lets the story he wants to tell take hold.

A A Gill had a lot to say about travel, food and sex and he also had an interesting observation on his own country and the obsessions with "classic" literature. "Britain is a nostalgic country, always looking back." If that's true, Gill continues to look forward by constantly pushing boundaries through his travels and writing.

By Danielle Williams


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