Monday, May 23, 2016

So Anyway by John Cleese


Why I Read It: I kind of had no choice. John Cleese wrote it.

Summary: Cleese's autobiography...to a point.

My Thoughts: Just like everybody else who read it, I suspect, I got to a point in the book where I said, "Oh my god...he's not going to do Python."

Cleese is an amazing writer. It helps that we all have his voice in our heads. I actually feel that there are books that need no audiobook companions, because we can already hear the voice, the inflection, the cadence. When we read them, it's as if they're being read to us.

That said, I reiterate, Cleese is an amazing writer. Of course, he's been at it for decades. He knows how to string together words in ways that make us laugh, either as Basil Fawlty, Ann Elk or as president of Britain's Well Basically Club. Sure, I was not an innocent and previously disinterested bystander when I picked up the book. I wanted to know as much as I could about the author's life. But many times in the past, I've picked up an autobiography with sweating palms and been deeply disappointed. I walked away from this one enchanted.

We learn where it all began, the stories of mom and dad, and how young John came along. We learn, in more detail than I was expecting, about John's relationship with his mother. We learn, too, origin stories for many of the skits that Monty Python made famous (Cleese was bitten by a rabbit as a kid, for instance). We also learn that not everything we saw on screen was original material, that some skits were tried and true routines from years past that Python simply made famous.

Most of the book is pre-Python, and, in fact, Cleese even admits that he was going to end the book with the formation of the group, but that he couldn't stop there without adding a few final words. He feels he has to, that he cannot call this book complete without sharing some of his deep love and affection for our lost Python, Graham Chapman. It's touching and beautiful. But the book still feels incomplete; or, more precisely, it makes the reader feel like there has to be a follow-up tome.

Python fans, Fawlty Towers fans, even A Fish Called Wanda fans should love this book, as, above all else, it proves that nice guys sometimes do well in this world.

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