Stephen Fry’s latest autobiography, More Fool Me, disappointed Pavel Kondov, a strong Fry fan. What was wrong with it?
This is going to be a tough one for me to say, but here goes…
I did not enjoy something written by Stephen Fry.
I never thought I would say this. I, and I cannot stress this enough, adore Stephen Fry – the comedian, the actor, the presenter, the writer. I tingle with excitement every time a new QI series comes around the corner. I drop everything I do and sit down to listen whenever he makes an occasional appearance on radio. I am a Frynatic, if you will. And the latest volume of Fry’s autobiography punished me for it.
This volume feels incredibly lazy, containing only about 40 per cent of actual original writing by Stephen. The book starts with an unnecessarily long recap of his first two autobiographic books Moab is My Washpot and The Fry Chronicles, as if the majority of readers would be appalled to learn that the third volume of a book series assumes some vague knowledge of the past ones. Then, the last third is an extract from his diary in 1993, the entries of which mainly concern themselves with what film premiere Fry was going to or what voiceover he had to do. Thrilling stuff.
The mid part that contains some actual new writing covers Fry’s life from the mid-80s to the mid-90s. From a 20-year-old’s point of view, the stories presented in the book confirmed my idea of what those years must have been, with weird new technologies, Princess Diana and cocaine high in the list of leitmotifs.
Picking up on the last one, if there is one interesting thing in this book, it’s Fry’s account of his drug habit. Stephen takes us from his first stint with cocaine through his fifteen years as what could be best described as a highly functioning drug addict. In typical Fry fashion, the story is full of outrageous anecdotes, including a list of places where he has done a line (Buckingham Palace and The House of Commons among the highlights there) and stories of four-day binges playing poker in gentlemen’s club and snorting industrial amounts of the white powder. What the story lacks, however, is Fry’s usual reflection on what got him into this habit, what sustained it, an insight into the mind of the celebrity drug addict. We know from past volumes Stephen is capable of exorcising his personal demons with painful honesty in front of the reader. Why skip that this time?
Then again, what with that being one of those increasingly rare autobiographies by a person that has actually achieved something in life, I was also interested in learning more about Stephen Fry the artist. Apart from the odd passing mention, I didn’t learn much about A Bit of Fry and Laurie – still the best sketch show to have been made – or any of Fry’s other creative endeavours.
That seems to be the main problem of the book – it doesn’t tell us anything new. Amid recaps and uninteresting day-to-day accounts, even the majority of the anecdotes had already been told on various TV or radio appearances. Mr Fry’s signature turn of phrase is the only saving grace of the book, but even that gets tedious if it isn’t accompanied by an equally fascinating story.
As superficial for neoFrytes as it is for Frynatics, More Fool Me tried to be something for everyone and ended up being nothing for no one. Rewatch some QI instead.
Pavel Kondov, Online Music Editorbookmark me