The long-anticipated diary of Michael Palin, or at least its first installment, has finally surfaced in print, revealing that the chatty Brit was apparently even more tireless than his fellow Pythons suspected. His zestful, often whimsical entries will shame other journal keepers with their coherence. They also reflect his rare candor. For instance, he admits his own astonishment when director Stephen Frears asked him to redo a scene: "I've never, in all my experience of Python filming, both on TV and in two movies, ever been involved in a retake of a scene for purely artistic reasons." First-rate fun.
The kind of person that someone appears to be on stage, screen or television is of course not necessarily the kind of person he really is. Palin, though, has revealed more than enough of himself over the years, especially in his wonderful BBC travel documentaries, to confirm that he really is a nice guy, not to mention witty, perceptive and (especially for a globetrotter) down to earth. Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years provides still more evidence. This charming and at times revelatory book is exactly what its name says it is: not a memoir or a history but simply excerpts from the diary Palin began keeping in 1969. A voice of (relative) sanity in the eye of a comedic storm, Palin paints so vivid a picture that the reader becomes a Python by proxy…Not that Diaries 1969-1979 is only about being a Python. It is appealing largely because as much as Palin loves making people laugh, he never forgets that comedy is his job rather than his life.
The New York Times
Though the emergence of the Python show and the subsequent phenomenon is traced here in fits and starts, there is more than enough in these 600-plus pages about the show, its cast members, its ups and downs to satisfy all but the most ravenous Python addicts. Not merely is there a lot of Python, there is a lot of show-business maneuvering, infighting and gossip, much of it immensely entertaining. We have no way of knowing what was cut from Palin's 38 notebooks"five times the amount of material reproduced here"but presumably cuts were made out of discretion as well as for length, and perhaps some tart nuggets about people who crossed Palin's path were left on the cutting-room floor. Still, readers who enjoy the higher gossipmea culpawill find much here to amuse them, and readers interested in the inner workings of a highly successful troupe of actors, writers and eccentrics will also find much to their satisfaction.
The Washington Post
As one of the six Pythons to have assembled back in the late 1960s, Palin provides insights into the group's dynamics during the decade that brought the Monty Python troupe to international acclaim. This abridgment can be satiating and frustrating, often simultaneously. At face value, it provides many behind-the-scenes moments and explores how and why the comedy troupe went about its business. Yet the mere knowledge that it's an abridgment will have listeners yearning to hear more-especially Python-quoting fans. The short, occasionally abrupt entries feel authentic, as journal entries can often be a mere few sentences. But listeners may constantly question how much has been trimmed. Occasionally, the journal entries read as a mere chronological list of events. As narrator, Palin proves adept at adding life and emotion in his mild-mannered voice to the more pedantic lulls in the audiobook. But given the audiobook's shortcomings, a bonus interview or some other material might have improved the overall enjoyment for listeners. Simultaneous release with the St. Martin's/Dunne hardcover. (Aug.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
In 1969, Monty Python's Flying Circuson the BBC commenced the saga of a six-man troupe with a distinctly British mix of cerebral, surreal, and profane humor that spanned a television series, four films, and numerous albums, books, and live appearances. Two new titles focus on specific members of the group. McCabe (coauthor, The Pythons: Autobiography) profiles the late Graham Chapman, who studied medicine but eventually devoted himself to comedy. McCabe uses interviews with Chapman's brother; his lifelong partner, David Sherlock; and former Pythons to present the life of a quiet man "who liked to surprise people with what was under the surface." Chapman battled with alcoholism and used his homosexuality to speak out against prejudice during a life cut short by cancer.Python Palin's wonderfully observed and written chronicles of the heyday years of Monty Python display the qualities of the novelist and travel writer that he became. Whether describing writing sessions, performance tours, filming in exotic locales, or battles with censorship, his diaries transcend the quotidian to capture a place and time in cultural history. His book is highly recommended for all public libraries: interest should surpass the Python fan base, who will find it essential reading. McCabe's thorough and balanced profile will be best appreciated by those with some previous knowledge of the troupe and is recommended for larger public libraries. For newcomers, a revised edition of George Perry's 1999 illustrated history, The Life of Python, is available in September and complements the more exhaustive The Pythons: Autobiography(2003).
Well-liked comic and world traveler Palin (Himalaya, 2005, etc.) turns in affable notes toward a memoir of a whirlwind decade. Equating keeping a diary to giving up smoking-painful and no fun at first, then patently the right thing to do-Palin chronicles a time when he and his fellow Monty Pythons were setting to work making comedy history. The beginnings of the BBC series that no one quite knew what to call (The Toad Elevating Moment? Owl-Stretching Time?) were, he allows, "very bizarre," with sketches devoted to "the death of Genghis Khan, and two men carrying a donkey past a Butlins redcoat, who later gets hit on the head with a raw chicken by a man from the previous sketch, who borrowed the chicken from a man in a suit of armor." There are epoch-making moments: we may never know whether the pet shop of November 12, 1970, was the epicenter of the dead parrot sketch, but we now can be sure that March 29, 1971, a Monday, marks the birth of the "Grimsby Fish-Slapping dance-which ends up with my being knocked about eight feet into the cold, green, insalubrious waters of the Thames." Python completists will be fascinated to learn that relations between the troupe members were occasionally strained, as were personal budgets; Palin reveals that they often took on ad-writing jobs for Guinness beer and such to have a few extra pence to spend. Less madcap than some of his fellows, comfortably married with children and on the quiet and bookish side to begin with, Palin still gets into misadventures and scrapes, among them with the censors who objected to the line "We make castanets of your testicles" from Holy Grail. Nonetheless, he is mostly gentle toward his foils, some of whom, such as anIndian-food-scarfing, Lumberjack-Song-quoting George Harrison, emerge as even more lovely than before. Essential for Python fans, who for once will not know all the punch lines.
"Michael Palin is not just one of Britain's foremost comedy character actors, he also talks a lot. Yap, yap, yap he goes, all day long and through the night...then, some nights, when everyone else has gone to bed, he goes home and writes up a diary." John Cleese
"Palin's prose is spry and insightful, identifying the true warmth felt for Hemingway in these locales...Any trout-fishing, bull-running, wing-shooting Hemingway fan worth his martini shaker should wind this book fun."Library Journal on Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure
"Is there anything Michael Palin can't do?" Washington Post on Hemingway's Chair