cover image To America with Love

To America with Love

A.A. Gill. Simon & Schuster, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4165-9621-9

A fine comparison between American “swivel-eyed,” plainspoken audacity and Old World “inertia and precedent” veers into a witty, albeit gushing tribute in the hands of Scottish-born Vanity Fair contributing editor Gill (A.A. Gill Is Further Away). Mostly a resident of London but a frequent visitor to America, Gill has apparently evolved into a rather admiring apologist for many of the eccentricities of his home away from home. He devotes his stylistically jaunty essays to defending the country’s earnest belief in government by the people, as well as its brashness of character, frank celebration of success, sublime sense of nature, and childish delight in speechifying and hucksterism, among other things. While some Europeans pooh-pooh Americans for being ignorant and unintellectual, Gill celebrates the latter’s refreshing lack of cynicism, reminding his blasé, sour-grapes colleagues back in the Old World that many of their “brightest and most idealistic” ancestors chose to emigrate to the States (engendering the best universities in the world, as well as the most memorable speeches in English). Americans’ love of independence (e.g., cowboys on the open range), skyscrapers, philanthropy, and movies elicits some truly cheeky, tear-swiping observations by Gill, though he is most eloquent when describing his first encounter with the Appalachian folk of eastern Kentucky while visiting an American cousin in the mid-1970s as an art student at Slade. This is a wonderful work by a besotted, biting observer; we’re glad he’s on our side. Agents: Charlie Campbell and Ed Victor, Ed Victory Literary Agency. (July)