Don't you hate it when you see that a new book is out by one of your favorite authors, and then you get it, and you hold it with quivering excitement, and then you open it and start reading...and you just aren't loving it?
This happened to me with A. A. Gill's latest, Previous Convictions: Assignments from Here and There. It's sitll Gill, so it's still good, but somehow, I just didn't love every minute of it, like I did with The Angry Island and A.A. Gill Is Away. For one thing, I think I prefer his travel writing, and this book opens with several pieces that are not travel: Father, Son, Golf, Hunting, Dog, etc. (these essays are the "Here" of the title). I much preferred the "There" essays: Haiti, Guatemala, India, Oman, Pakistan, etc.
I did love the piece about Las Vegas:
"There's one of those plastic laminated nonbiodegradable notes in my hotel bathroom. It's headed PRESERVE OUR FUTURE: 'Preserving the Earth's vital resources is something we can all take part in. In an effort to save water and energy and to minimize the release of harsh biodegradable [sic] detergents...please leave this card on your pillow and we will remake your bed with existing linens.'
I read it twice.
I'm in a hotel that has built a replica of Venice's Grand Canal--on the second floor, so that it won't wash away the crap tables downstairs. This is a city that blows up the hotels when they're slightly soiled, that sweats neon, that sprays ice water from the lampposts and puts dancing fountains in the desert. This is a place that when they started nuclear testing next door sold picnics for those who wanted to get a closer look--and held Miss Atomic Bomb contests with bikinis shaped like mushroom clouds. These are the people who are wagging a finger at me and asking me to be parsimonious with the laundry.
Well, welcome to Las Vegas--where irony just curls up and dies." (pp. 243-244.)
Okay, that's pretty good stuff. I guess this one gets a thumbs up after all.