cover image THE PYTHONS: Autobiography by the Pythons

THE PYTHONS: Autobiography by the Pythons

Michael Palin, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, , with Bob McCabe. . St. Martin's/Dunne, $60 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-312-31144-5

This massive autobiography/oral history offers a full literary meal about the irreverent Python troupe and an equally satisfying wealth of photos covering childhoods, weddings, film and TV appearances. It opens with members Michael Palin, Eric Idle, John Cleese and Terry Gilliam supplying witty commentaries about their collaborators, then follows with the foursome—plus Terry Young—profiling themselves. Graham Chapman, who died in 1989, comes alive through sparkling reminiscences by his longtime partner, David Sherlock. The groundbreaking sextet first captured attention through David Frost's The Frost Report in 1966 and became comedy cult kings with the BBC series Monty Python's Flying Circus . The accounts and accompanying photographs regarding their experiences and conflicts on Circus and the subsequent motion pictures The Life of Brian , Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Meaning of Life are captivatingly honest closeups of the creative process; the reprinted postcards the gang sent Terry Jones from Amsterdam are priceless. "Dear Terry," reads one, "Graham is sitting on my right. On my left is an empty chair. Opposite sits John Goldstone & to his left (not mine) is Little John. To his left & slightly in front of him i.e. at the head of the table sits a silly little man who is in charge of us." Despite inevitable skirmishes, an open attitude prevailed that allowed everyone to express themselves freely: says Idle, "You could say anything— 'I think that's crap'—and nobody would punch you and get upset." By book's end, readers will feel they know each Python intimately and marvel that six such different personalities could collaborate to produce such hilarious, scathingly subversive comedy. 1,000 color and b&w photos. (Oct. 7)