New Books (May)

NewBooks-20180525

Featuring: Tim Baker, David Baldacci, J.D. Barker, Steve Brusatte, Shaun Bythell, Michael Carroll, Steve Cavanagh, P. Djèlí Clark, John Cleese, Gardner Dozois, Dominic Dulley, Sarah Gailey, Guy Haley, Robert Hilburn, S.L. Huang, Dave Hutchinson, Steven Hyden, Dave Itzkoff, D.B. John, Stephen King, Derek Lambert, Yoon Ha Lee, William Martin, Michael Moreci, Hannu Rajaniemi, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Martha Wells, Drew Williams

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Review: SO, ANYWAY… by John Cleese (Doubleday)

CleeseJ-SoAnywayAn interesting, if surprising biography

Candid and brilliantly funny, this is the story of how a tall, shy youth from Weston-super-Mare went on to become a self-confessed legend. En route, John Cleese describes his nerve-racking first public appearance, at St Peter’s Preparatory School at the age of eight and five-sixths; his endlessly peripatetic home life with parents who seemed incapable of staying in any house for longer than six months; his first experiences in the world of work as a teacher who knew nothing about the subjects he was expected to teach; his hamster-owning days at Cambridge; and his first encounter with the man who would be his writing partner for over two decades, Graham Chapman. And so on to his dizzying ascent via scriptwriting for Peter Sellers, David Frost, Marty Feldman and others to the heights of Monty Python.

Punctuated from time to time with John Cleese’s thoughts on topics as diverse as the nature of comedy, the relative merits of cricket and waterskiing, and the importance of knowing the dates of all the kings and queens of England, this is a masterly performance by a former schoolmaster.

This biography was not at all what I was expecting. For one thing, Monty Python plays a relatively tiny part in the story. Instead of So, Anyway…, this book could easily have been called “The Road to Monty Python”. Despite this, I found it interesting and, after Cleese moved on to his university days, absolutely engaging. Continue reading

New Books (November)

BooksReceived-20141105

Featuring: Paolo Bacigalupi, M.L. Brennan, Peter Carey, John Cleese, Allen Drury, Michel Faber, Jacob Grey, Joe Hill, N.K. Jemisin, E.C. Myers, Michael Pitre, Patrick Swenson, Matthew Quick, Jo Walton, Cecily Wong, Chris Wraight Continue reading