The written or the spoken word? When it comes to Stephen Fry one of the greatest and learned polymaths of our time it is a difficult choice not least of all following from his brilliant readings with that wonderful voice narrating the Harry Potter series and the added attractions of this book on all sorts of I Apps and gadgets. But written word it is and thank you for the prompt delivery from Amazon pre order system for this book takes up where “” left off as Fry troops off to University and takes us on a journey up to his initial appearances on television.
I would love to claim credit for the title of this review but it is happily stolen with immense pride from the Daily Telegraph as it speaks volumes about Fry’s contribution to our culture (and in any case everything that I thought of seemed to involve a rather obvious Lord Melchett quote -but see below). Fry has built up a reputation since the publication of “Moab” which formally puts him in the category of “national treasure” with a Knighthood so obviously coming down the line that all bets are off, This status has been achieved despite the odd hiccup on the way not least the debacle of Simon Gray’s play “The Cell Mates” where Fry essentially did a runner after suffering a nervous breakdown leaving a deeply puzzled and annoyed Rik Mayall and much explaining to do. Yet we can forgive him this not least for his verbal dexterity, his wit, his intellectual depth and breadth, his entering the term “baaaaaaaaaaaaaah” into the English lexicon and his ability to honestly face up to some very personal demons not least his battle with bi polar disorder and his love for Wagner despite being Jewish. And then for good measure add to this the fact that he has been the poster boy for celibacy, he championed New Labour then abandoned it, led the Twitter revolution and also is the ubiquitous voice of British TV advertising. Allegedly it is rumoured that he rests on the seventh day.
“The Fry chronicles” has been well trailed with readings by Fry at the Royal Festival hall and its serialisation in the Sunday Times. It is an excellent and often poignant read but most all its an unadulterated pleasure. At the heart of this book are a number of platonic love stories not least with Emma Thompson, Rowan Atkinson and especially Hugh Laurie. Fry’s admiration of his “partner in crime” his huge and he simply states with genuine affection that “Hugh had music where I had none. He had an ability to be likeably daft and clownish. He moved, tumbled and leapt like an athlete. He had authority, presence and dignity”. This warm tribute is encircled by the story of how the two men met in the rarefied atmosphere of Cambridge Footlights and with Thompson being the go between. Similarly he is warm in his tribute to Atkinson and especially his cruel but debonair role in Blackadder alongside the wonderful Queenie, Miranda Richardson. Fry chronicles how the show had struggled in its first series (“The only show that looked like a million dollars but cost a million pounds”) to how it lifted off into the stars in its hilarious Elizabethan iteration.
Fry’s problems are well exposed in the book. His addition to all kinds of sweets and confectionaries have dogged his dietary problems although the recent loss of six stone in weight led Jeremy Clarkson to ask Fry on Top Gear “where is the rest of you”? Like many great comedians Fry has a darker side and a level of relentless insecurity. He admits at one point in the book that “I spend much of my life imprisoned by a ruthless unreasoning conscience that tortures me and denies me happiness”. Those of us lucky enough not to suffer from the depressive illness are sometimes puzzled by what this means particularly for celebrities who on the surface appear to have been blessed with immense talent. Fry’s consistent and honest exhortations to make the effects of bi polar disorder more understood and expose its terrible burden is admirable. Granted the book has some faults. Its Stephen Fry for god sake so you must expect an above average level of “luuviedom” and passages glorifying “Actooors”. Fry cant help his loquaciousness but in these times of strained vocabulary what’s wrong with that? Indeed in the video to accompany the book he happily admits to being a “bit of an old whore, swinging my handbag and offering everyone a good time ducky” and don’t we just admire him for it.
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Fabulous book to read. I just love it.
- Tweeting Fry (theglobeandmail.com)
- Stephen Fry Live (guardian.co.uk)
- Stephen Fry says he’s ’90 per cent gay’ (pinkbananaworld.com)
- The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry | Book review (guardian.co.uk)
- Stephen Fry Reveals That He’s “90% Gay!” (perezhilton.com)
- Stephen Fry’s most shameful secret: he can’t write for toffee (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
- myFry: Stephen Fry’s second autobiography becomes an interactive app (tuaw.com)
- Stephen Fry: The know-all who is everybody’s friend | Profile (guardian.co.uk)