The Pythons

April 11th, 2006

A warning to the wise: do not read this book without a ready supply of Monty Python available for viewing…the tormenting cravings you will feel to watch their audiovisual masterpieces will be intensely aroused by the accounts in this book of how they came to be made. The unwise amongst you (read: Non-Python fanatics) may piss off. Go on, we didn’t like you anyway. The Pythons is a collection of Autobiographical interviews and writings by the four, no, five core members of the group; Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin…six core members, there were six core members of the group. Their accounts range from descriptions of their childhoods and education, through their introduction to the arts, before delving into the Python years (and the happenings that led to the group’s formation) in great detail, down to the group’s falling apart and the years since. Chapman’s pieces consist mostly of old interview quotes and some new material from his family, but not himself, seeing as he came down with a persistent case of death. Spamalot is (more or less) right out… This is mostly a serious, documentary sort of book, and although the anecdotes are occasionally hilarious, bits of it get to be somewhat dull, particularly the sometimes very detailed descriptions of the group member’s pre-Python work on various programs and shows. What pulls it out of the dreariness, however, is the story-telling abilities of these 6 men, all of them experienced writers of considerable intellect and incomparable wit. They capture some of the energy that led to the world-spanning influence of Monty Python, and above all convey the intelligence and hard work that went into making so many of us think and laugh. There’s this great quote from Eric Idle in the book: “When people say [Python is] undergraduate humour I think they’re wrong, it’s postgraduate humour,” and after reading about how all of these men (excepting Gilliam) went to Oxford or Cambridge, some achieving advanced degrees, one must certainly agree. The book is not without it’s flaws, however, most glaringly some horrible, horrible layout decisions. The book is scattered with images of primary documents and photographs, many of which are fascinating, but the book’s designers decided that blowing up one of these items and washing it with a solid color would make excellent backdrops to the text of the book every few pages or so. Without altering the coloring of the text itself. This makes some pages of the book all but unreadable in normal lighting conditions (I found that some pages were more easily legible under colored lighting, YMMV), and is just ugly in almost every instance. Aside from that annoyance, however, I think this would be a very interesting and informative book for any Python fan to read, and I definitely recommend it.

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