Book review: And Now For Something Completely Digital

Amazon currently lists 142 books about Monty Python. Do we really need another one?

Fans Alan Parker and Mick O’Shea have tried to forge their own niche by publishing what’s described as a complete guide to all the Python’s CDs and DVDs. But they’ve failed.

There’s sure to be some sort of market for this sort of book, given the huge number of people who to this day still quote huge chunks of Python, but even so, I expect it’ll be in the remaindered shops by Christmas.

The problem is that the authors are themselves just those sort of people who enjoy regurgitating the old sketches – and have spent 170 pages doing little more than that.

First, let’s dispel the idea that this is a comprehensive guide to all the CDs and DVDs out there, which would have some sort of anoracky merit. Sure, every release is listed in appendices, but with little information about what’s included.

Take the special DVD edition release of Holy Grail – it doesn’t say from which year. The entire description is ‘Two-disc special edition featuring the movie and a whopping twenty-five special features, the movie itself runs 89 minutes.’ Well, thanks for the detail, chaps.

As for the CDs, we are given just track listings, which I guess is all you might want.

So instead of a guide to everything, the book really concerns itself only with the five films, which fans must surely know backwards. And each chapter is simply a straightforward scene-by-scene description of what happens.

It’s like being cornered by a Python bore, and one who uses long-winded grandiloquent language in the mistaken belief it’s somehow intrinsically witty. As in, ‘the customer then tries a different tack by enquiring as to why the parrot has been nailed to its perch.’ What’s wrong with  ‘asks’?

But the essential point is who on earth would  needs to have the parrot sketch, or the ‘what have the Romans ever done for us’ argument, or the ‘Knights who say Ni’ scene described in the first place. If you know the films, you know them, if you don’t, you won’t care. And this isn’t a script book, so it’s all done by paraphrase.

Occasionally a quote pulled from a better-researched source punctuates the text, by way of offering some behind-the-scenes commentary, and a few trivia facts in the margin are quite jolly, but nothing more.

But the biggest giveaway to the laziness of this endeavour is its shameless use of the Wikipedia online encylopaedia for explanatory notes. Entries for the Spamalot show, musical collaborator Neil Innes and Python reunion rumours have all been cut and pasted, entirely legally and properly credited, from this ‘open source’ reference work. If you’re writing a book about Python and can’t muster a couple of hundred words of your own on the current Broadway smash, it’s a pretty poor show.

The rrp for this waste of woodpulp is £17.95 – whereas you can buy a box set of all the movies it so tediously describes for almost a pound less. Why would anyone bother?

And Now For Something Completely Digital is published by Disinformation. Click here to buy.

Steve Bennett
April 2006

Published: 23 Sep 2006

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