Book Review: “A Liar’s Autobiography” by Graham Chapman, Douglas Adams, and David Sherlock (audio, abridged)

If you’re looking for something unashamedly Pythonesque, read by on of the members of Monty Ptyhon, this is it. Graham Chapman’s autobiography, read by Chapman himself.

The central premise of this book is that you never know what’s true and what’s a lie. Pretty daring for “non-fiction” — Werner Herzog before Werner Herzog.

There are some obvious fictional elements — long passages from the fictional British flying ace Biggles’s point of view, a few purloined Monty Python sketches — and strangely THIS is where you are on your solidest ground. You are comfortable in these waters — or in this airplane — because you KNOW they aren’t true. Everything else, though, is up in the air. Higher than even Biggles’s airplane.

The impressive part of this work is the sheer unrelenting creativity of it — if a German airplane shoots at Biggles, the bullets say “ping” in German; almost every line is a study in inverted meaning, irony, sarcasm, litotes.

And it IS hilarious. I

t’s one of the few audiobooks (or book of any kind) that I have listened to twice, because not only is it enormously entertaining, it represents something so surreal and fresh that I haven’t seen it’s like in the written word before. Not even in Chapman’s close friend Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, which is the only book I can compare it to.

For all that is good about it, there are flaws —

It is abridged, for one thing, even when it says it is not (yet another lie! 🙂 ), and I in general despise abridgements. However, I can’t tell what is missing. It’s short, 4 CDs, and I know from the reviews I’ve read online that SOMETHING is missing, but I can’t tell.

What really annoys me are the extraneous adverbs. There are places in this where the adverbs are absolutely critical for the humor, but many of them are only clunky additions, and the author can tell this as well as he trips while reading them. Basically, he should have read the whole book out loud at least once in the final edit. But, really, this is a minor complaint.

Overall, the work is genius and quite rewarding. I even found it inspiring — I blame the irresistible need to start the current “silly” novel I’m working on directly on this book. It’s well worth a read.

Available on Amazon here.

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