Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book Review: Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years

Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years
Back in the days before the name 'Palin' was synonymous with vice-presidential candidates apparently chosen as the result of a bet, we had Michael Palin. Michael is probably best remembered as being 'the nice polite one' from the Monty Python team, though Brits will also remember him travelling all over the place on the telly.

Turns out he's quite the diarist as well, diligently filling notebooks on an almost daily basis; by coincidence, he'd started writing them again after a lull a few weeks before the first series of Flying Circus. From there, you get a blow by blow account of the whole of the 1970s, which covers the four TV series, the first three movies, ripping yarns, his appearances on Saturday Night Live, and absolute reams on the writing and performing of all these.

Not to mention the dynamics of the Pythons. I don't know about you, but I can read all day about how, say, Pennon and McCartney hated each other, or how the four members of Queen, well, actually got along with each other really well. With the Pythons, there's definite (if very polite) camps; Cleese and Chapman writing in one very specific style, Palin, Jones and Gillian on another, with Eric Idle somewhere off on his own. There's no fisticuffs (at least not that Palin records), but you get the feel that every sketch that made it to the screen had an epic battle to get there; until all of them agreed something was funny, it didn't get done.

Interspersed with all this are entries about Palin's personal life; his marriage, the children growing up, his father's long illness. The sort things you would get, in other words, in a diary. These moments are perhaps what make the book stand out from other, drier biographies of some celebs. There's some genuinely touching moments in there. Not that Palin, perhaps one of Britain's best loved TV figures, needs to be presented in a more human light, but still...

Price? Last time I looked, ten bucks, give or take a cent or five. Probably at the high end of books I'd review, and probably only if you're a Python fan (which, if you're a big enough nerd to be reading a blog about eBook reviews, you most likely are). The sequel I refuse to buy while Gollancz insists on pricing it at $16.99, which is something like a whole dollar cheaper than an actual hardback copy of the book. They must think I was born yesterday or something.

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