Kirkus Reviews QR Code
HALFWAY TO HOLLYWOOD by Michael Palin Kirkus Star


Diaries 1980-1988

by Michael Palin

Pub Date: March 15th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-68202-6
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Renowned funnyman and world traveler Palin surveys the ruins of the British Empire and heads outward in the follow-up to Diaries 1969–1979: The Python Years (2007).

In 1980, following the release of the films Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian, Palin and his fellow Pythons seemed poised to conquer the American film industry, with their representative asking more than $6 million for a mere treatment for Paramount. Eight years later, as this installment in the author’s journal closes, the sextet has effectively stopped working together, and Palin is about to embark upon the global adventures that yielded Around the World in 80 DaysPole to Pole and other travelogues. In between, the author writes about all manner of things connected to the film and TV business and the more learned reaches of entertainment. He kvetches about Hollywood’s creative accounting (“The upshot is that not only will there not be a penny profit from America from a movie which was one of the top 40 grossers of the year in the US, but the earnings will hardly cover half the production cost”) and about the conception of various projects such as Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits, which, despite the contributions of Sean Connery and the general merriment, Palin still wants to call Terry Gilliam’s Greed. Throughout, Palin is sharp, literate, shrewd and sometimes harsh about the people he encounters. It will not please fans of The Songlines, for instance, to learn that Palin found Bruce Chatwin “rather sneery about things in a slightly aggressive, camp way which I don’t awfully take to.” Neither might Mel Brooks forgive Palin’s description of their chance encounter, which would seem to demonstrate definitively that “Brooks has an almost pathological inability to accept competition—it’s all a reduction of his own world.”

Pythonophiles will find this essential, of course. But fans of good writing should dip into these pages, too, for Palin—Michael, not Sarah—knows his way around a book.