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review 2019-02-15 09:48
Always look on the bright side of life!



Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sorta biography

Eric Idle

Audible Audiobook

Version: Unabridged

Publisher: Random House Audio

Audible.com Release Date: October 2, 2018





Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton

As Eric Idle himself says in the introduction to his new memoir, over the years we've been given a deluge of histories, documentaries, and other memoirs about the careers of the six Monty Pythons. So can Idle's "sorta" autobiography give us anything new?


Not having read all the books Idle alluded to, I can't fairly answer that question. I suspect if you're one of those who have, in fact, read and seen everything related to the funniest comedy troupe of all time, I suspect you'd still enjoy a book that is as funny as the Pythons used to be.  After all, Idle has written comedy material since 1963 and his new book demonstrates just how comic one writer can be.


But if you're one of those who loved and enjoyed Monty Python without getting immersed in all the appreciations and analysis they've received over the years, than Eric Idle's new memoir is a real treat. And very revelatory. For example, one delight for me was learning about Idle's pre-Python work in British comedy we Yanks never saw. And the post Python projects like Spamalot and his many tours with John Clease.


It's still difficult for me to grasp that the heyday of Monty Python  ran from 1969 to 1983 with occasional projects sprouting up from time to time thereafter. As my 14 year old grandson is a Monty Python junkie, you'd think they were still pumping out new material. Nope.


Of course, no one's life is all just their most celebrated achievements, so we learn much about Eric Idle's personal life in his breezy memoir. Poignant chapters discuss his painful growing-up years, his time at Cambridge, and his friendships with the likes of George Harrison and Robin Williams and their tragic ends. So this memoir isn't a laugh fest on every page and shouldn't have been.


Still, along the way, Idle gives us generous samplings of old skits like the "Eric the "half-A-Bee" song and repeated discussions of how his most famous song, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," has been used and reused in all manner of both expected and unexpected places. I must agree with other reviewers who complain that some sections, especially in the latter half, are jammed thick with gratuitous name-dropping and overlong passages describing Idle's active social life, partying with the stars. In such patches, skimming might be the way to go.


Without question, if you can get this book in its Audible Audiobook format as read by the author, that's the way to do it. You can feel his style, hear him occasionally verge on breaking into laughter,  hear him sing, and get the full Eric Idle treatment. And that's the reason you got this book to begin with, right?

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Feb. 14, 2019:



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review 2019-02-11 09:35
A tribute to...




Herbie J Pilato 

Paperback: 458 pages

Publisher: Jacobs Brown Press (January 25, 2019)

ISBN-10: 0999507850

ISBN-13: 978-0999507858




Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton


Mary isn't the first show biz bio I've read from Herbie J Pilato, a founder of the Classic TV Preservation Society. I first learned about the depth of Herbie's TV expertise when I read his 2007 The Bionic Book: The Six Million Dollar man and the Bionic Woman Reconstructed. After that, he produced several adoring books about Bewitched  star, Elizabeth Montgomery.


Now, Pilato has presented us with a in-depth, exhaustive bio of a star he clearly also adores, a star most of us out here in TV-Watcher land love as well. Mary Tyler Moore, and her more iconic roles like Laura Petrie and Mary Richards, certainly did turn the world on with her smile. If that number includes you, then this is a book for you.


To greater and lesser degrees, most of us know quite a bit about the biography of Mary Tyler Moore, her career, her private life, her struggles, her successes and failures.  There's so much in the public record, including the autobiographies Moore wrote.


What Herbie J. Palato has given us is a one-stop tome that covers everything one could ask for about Moore herself, her colleagues, her relationships, her misfires and triumphs, her self-consciousness and lack of self-esteem in terms of her looks,  not to mention her causes like diabetes research and animal rights.


When an author devotes this much attention to a beloved subject, there can be some excesses in the text. In this case, there's a lot of repetition, notably the countless references to the importance of Ordinary People in Moore's career. There are numerous paragraphs summarizing the careers and roles of those Moore worked with at one time or another. Of course, this makes Mary an easy book to skim.  But keep your eyes open to catch the streams of nuggets Pilato gives us. We get a portrait of a woman in 3-D, including her shortcomings, talents, work ethic, parental skills (or lack of them) and her insights an perspectives regarding her important and influential career. And surprises--I didn't know her animal rights activism extended to protecting lobsters. Books like these are also good for reviewing lesser known projects like talk show appearances, guest-starring and cameos on TV series, and public speaking. For the first time, I got the story to what happened to the short-lived1985  Mary series co-starring John Astin from Addams Family fame. I got the insider stories behind the sad attempts to reunite the Dick Van Dyke cast and especially the dreary Mary and Rhoda TV movie.


Naturally, you got to have some real interest in the biography of Mary Tyler Moore to want to dive into this very detailed and balanced tribute. Someone needed to write this book, and who better than Herbie J. Pilato. He knows how to do it.


This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Feb. 5, 2019:




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review 2019-02-09 14:10
Never Say I Can't- Philip Catshill

     This is a wonderful true to life book, written by the sufferer of a major cerebrovascular accident experienced at the very young age of thirty. Having just received his sergeant’s strips as a British Policeman, Catshill is cut down to a physical half, with a severely damaged long and short-term memory and at first a total lack of coherent speech. He had to learn how to regain control of his motor functions, especially those on the entire right side of his body, and his mind. The man even had to ‘retrain’ his injured brain to see through what had become a suddenly ‘disconnected’ right eye. His courage, honesty, and determination shine through in proverbial buckets.

     Catshill has survived not only this story’s devastating stroke, but two more less severe episodes since. That is that they were considerably less severe than the first, but by no means inconsequential. In his rebuilt life he has become a first class autobiographer and in another genre fiction writer. This is the sort of story that should fortify the determination of any one of us having fallen into some form of severe health crisis. Except sadly, our own minds are likely to be so shattered or simply pre-occupied that we will fail to benefit from any memories from this amazing story about the will to recover.

     This is an immensely humorous book, though of course often of a very black nature, but one that raises genuine belly laughs at that, and so it should for live is unbearable if we try to treat every unfortunate situation with only the gravity it naturally generates. It goes without saying that it also inevitably moistens one’s eyes. I felt at liberty to laugh at Catshill’s struggles, laughing with him, but taking the seriousness, the mental depression, the physical distress on-board.

     In many ways this will always be a unique book, as it is rare for anyone to recover from such major trauma, and to also have the intellectual ability to subsequently write so well about the event. When the trauma is of the nature of a stroke, a literal cerebral infarction, then this book must be seen as all the more remarkable. This isn’t a some imagined third person narrative or ghost-written augmentation of the victim’s capacity, this is true, direct, gritty autobiography.

     Some living individuals don’t come out of this narrative at all well, as brutal honesty extends beyond the author himself. I trust that their identities are well hidden. Arguably, biography can only be real when the wide field is truly accurate. There is no implied criticism on my part, only reason that would always prevent me getting to close to publicly disclosed personal truth. Memoir is an often-painful genre. As we read in this story, we notice how a simple sentence, spoken or written, can be totally devastating or by tone or tiny change be the greatest of empowering gifts. Recovery is always easier with the kindness of others and can hang in the balance either way on very few targeted words. The words in this book are chosen and ordered to strong affect.


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review 2018-12-12 13:00
BECOMING written and narrated by Michelle Obama
Becoming - Michelle Obama


I don't know what to say about this book other than the following:


I found Michelle Obama to be an impressive and an interesting person.


She's classy, (she could have said a lot more unflattering things about many people. She didn't.)


She's a great narrator.


She loves her husband and kids with all of heart and shows it with her actions.


Political campaigns cost even more than I thought. (And I still can't help but think that money could be put to better uses across this country.)


I found it to be such an inspiring read I'm not ashamed to say it brought tears to my eyes more than once. At the same time, this book unintentionally made me nostalgic and sad. It is my opinion that a lot of the good accomplished by the Obama administration has now been undone. (The Paris Climate Change Agreement, among many other things.)


I highly recommend this book to those who want to know more about Michelle Obama, (whether or not your admire her), from her own mouth.


*Comments and/or questions regarding this BOOK or this somewhat of a REVIEW are more than welcome, positive or negative.*


**Comments regarding political views not associated with this book or review will be deleted.**

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review 2018-11-22 16:09
Little Me: My Autobiography - Matt Lucas

Disclaimer: I received a copy via Librarything.


                This book is so morditorial.


                I didn’t know when I started watching Little Britain that I had actually seen Matt Lucas in something before.  He had a brief cameo in Plunkett and MacLean.  But when I first started watching Little Britain, I didn’t know that.  I know that it just made me laugh.


                Lucas’ alphabetized memoir will make you laugh (the Jackie Collins story) and make you cry (a story about his father).  That’s right, it isn’t in chronological order but alphabetical order.  There is even, as the book’s back notes, a song in the middle.


                It is entirely possible that the book isn’t as personal as some fans might wish.  The details about his marriage to Kevin John McGee are too personal to fully share according to Lucas’ introduction.  Yet, in many ways, it makes the book feel more honest.


                Well, that and Kimberly.


                Kimberly is very important.


                There is of course, quite a bit about Little Britain, including not only the creative process but also whether Walliams and Lucas would do anything different and pushes back against some of the criticism that has been leveled at the show.


                But the bulk of the memoir isn’t about the television series.  There is more focus on family, feelings, views, and coming to terms with one’s own sexuality.  There is grief in the memoir but also much hope.  It is one of those quiet books that actually heals the reader.

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