Top critical review
on 18 January 2016
I found this to be a very patchy effort by someone who generally presents as an entertaining, likeable and interesting person. The aspects that were worth reading were some of the more cohesive diary entries, generally of his travels abroad; plus his occasional remarks about the creative process, such as how the Monty Python group work. Otherwise, Palin comes across as having drifted from the more exciting part of his career in forging a pathway, into a sort of wealthy, semi-indolent, at times wasteful lifestyle. His pronouncements at times belie his obvious wealth - on the one hand he flies first class and Concorde, on the other hand he decries economic rationalism and schools like Eton - he sends his children to government funded schools (unlike his own private education). Unlike some of his other books and shows, my response to this heavy tome was - why bother with it? Palin admits he edited over a million words down to 250,000, yet for the most part the diary is disjointed. It suffers from being written without much context, but also without major insights accordingly. At times the diary entries are as mundane as comment on that day's weather, as if there is nothing else to report - so why bother to report that day at all when not every day is given an entry? Too often, the shadow cast across this book is that it was not published because it was interesting or well written, but because its author is well known. Like many modern published diaries by famous sportsmen, it becomes good trade for the publishers by trading off the celebrity status of its author. So if I write about having a great day of fun with some of my friends, nobody cares. But if Palin writes about having a great day of fun with some of his friends in just a tedious recording type entry, it becomes published - either because his friends were someone famous (like George Harrison) or if not (and often they are too obscure to be known without the help of foot-notes) then because of Palin's own fame. While it was interesting to read that ex-Beatle George was grumpy on the telephone because Palin interrupted his TV show viewing that evening (before we could pause TVs), it was also not at all interesting because it was simply what the common Joes of this world are like - and nobody publishes the diary of a common Joe. And if the book was edited, then where were the passages that were worth reading out loud by reason of the witty expression or turn of phrase? All too few. The insights into the personality of Palin were a positive to end this review on - not all of them favourable as in at times Palin comes across as a wealthy bore, surprisingly anxious about ongoing success, unduly pessimistic and inclined to bad moods. These at least show that his likeable persona is not always evident and at least he is honest enough to tear down the façade at times. Again, this simply begs the question - why bother? If you are going to read a book by or about Palin, start somewhere else, such as his travelogues.