Coming to a standstill

Travelling to work is the third volume of Michael Palin's diaries, covering 1988-1998, the years when his latter career as an explorer took off. I loved Palin's earlier diaries detailing the founding of Monty Python, and his rising career as an actor, culminating in a BAFTA, and general acclaim, for his role as the hapless Ken Pile in A fish called Wanda. 

Part of the charm, I think, of the early diaries was that they were about a very ordinary (if extremely talented) man dealing with the sudden onslaught of fame and success. So alongside Michael's very ordinary (and happy) family life was a life of superstardom, that would have made most people at least a little crazy. The fact that Palin handled it so well says a lot for his famous "niceness" as a person.

I was thoroughly looking forward to volume three of the diaries. I've loved Palin's travel series, and the accompanying books that went with them. Unfortunately though Travelling to work proved to be the least engaging of his diaries. If diary 2 Halfway to Hollywood had half an eye on posterity, this series of diaries is definitely thinking about what posterity will think.

The result is sadly that a lot of the freshness of the earlier diaries is missing. There are some genuinely moving moments, not least the deaths of Palin's mother and his fellow-Python, Graham Chapman. But ultimately the diaries mainly seem to consist of a lot of dinners in posh places with posh people, the more everyday Palin - an Everyman in a different milieu - seems to be sadly lacking here. And he seems so concerned with the judgement of others.

There seems to be (probably understandably, but nevertheless boringly) copious editing; and it lacks all that made the early diaries bright and funny and engaging. Such a shame.


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