133 of 143 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book by a wonderful man
I loved this book. I have been eagerly awaiting it ever since I read Moab is my Washpot which was wonderful, but left you wanting more. Well I still want more because this book only takes you up to 1987. Nevertheless it is a fantastic combination of funny stories, brutal honesty about himself, loving descriptions of the people he met along the way, a description of...
Published on 23 Sep 2010 by LadyD
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Advanced polymaths
I never quite know what the think of Stephen Fry. I do find him funny, and he clearly has extraordinary talents - encyclopaedic knowledge; the ability to turn his hand to acting, comedy, script-writing, quiz show hosting, providing voice-overs, credit card defrauding, book writing.
But there's something that stops me quite 'buying' him. It might just be pure...
Published 21 months ago by Stephen Hudson
Most Helpful First | Newest First
133 of 143 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book by a wonderful man,
In particular his descriptions of his relationship with, and deep love for, the dedicatee of this book - his partner and friend Hugh Laurie - are extremely moving and brought a tear to my eye.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does not disappoint,
This book does not bring Fry's story up to the present day - another volume is seemingly promised. Instead it shows us the formative years of Fry's career - actor, writer, comedian - beginning at Cambridge an continuing into his early stage and screen productions, leaving the story around the time of "Blackadder II".
Fry is typically honest and self-deprecating - often harshly so, but without ever falling into the trap of self-pity. His affection for his years at Cambridge is very apparent, as is his love and respect for many of those he has worked with - particularly Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Ben Elton and Rowan Atkinson. Fry's feelings of inadequacy when compared to these other talents are particularly fasincating, though I don't doubt that they each felt something similar. There are also wonderful and hilarious anecdotes of the likes of Robbie Coltrane and Miriam Margolyes.
Fry wilfully admits that he will use ten words when one will do, but his prose are so elegant and his love of language so infectious, I doubt many readers will mind. This is certainly a more straight-forward narrative than I remember "Moab" being - "Moab" would often veer off into tangents and Stephen would give us his views on life, the universe and everything, and it is a shame that there isn't a bit more of that in this book. But this is a very minor quibble.
All in all, anyone who read "Moab" should certainly read this, and everyone else should probably read it too. A genuine and honest insight into the life and the mind of an always interesting, entertaining, and thoroughly likeable man.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Advanced polymaths,
This review is from: The Fry Chronicles (Paperback)I never quite know what the think of Stephen Fry. I do find him funny, and he clearly has extraordinary talents - encyclopaedic knowledge; the ability to turn his hand to acting, comedy, script-writing, quiz show hosting, providing voice-overs, credit card defrauding, book writing.
But there's something that stops me quite 'buying' him. It might just be pure jealousy, that one man can be just so talented. It might be the feeling that he is a little too good at working his audience, a bit faux-naive self-deprecating. The other possible reason of course is that you can't get away from him. He's everywhere, and I guess this book is the story of how he came to be everywhere.
I did enjoy this book a lot. I'm the same age as Fry and the people and TV programmes he describes in this book are the ones I watched in my early adulthood - Comic Strip, Fry and Laurie, Ben Elton etc. etc. The book is refreshingly honest about these (he likes Ben Elton, a lot; he seems to dislike Robbie Coltrane, a lot), and he does a reasonable job of (a) telling us just how incredibly successful he has been, and (b) being extremely modest about his acheivements. It is genuinely funny - a photo of Fry and his posh pals looking cheerfully smug in black ties ("I know we look like w@nkers, but we weren't, honestly"). It is also a fascinating tale of Fry's struggle with the excesses of his own personality. He's a good writer (he bloody would be, wouldnt he!) and there are some great stories here. And I didn't realise that the young Emma Thompson was SUCH a cutie.
But something is missing for me, which means only three stars. I think it's the fact that, despite Fry's tortured self-awareness, he just doesn't quite understand that life is harder than this for less talented people. His career from Cambridge just happens, effortlessly and with a feeling of inevitability. He's asked to write the screenplay for Me and My Girl in his early 20s; it's a smash hit; appears on TV in a hit comedy revue; stars for his team on University Challenge - it goes on and on. I want to know if he was surprised at all this success, and if not, why not?
But anyway, it is a really enjoyable read, and I'll buy the next instalment, for sure. Ultimately, he is a likable man, even if he is intimidatingly talented, and he usually falls on the right side of most debates. But, as I say, something stops me giving it more than three stars.
Yes, it is jealousy, I think.
43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not enough,
What's worse, is that frankly, it's boring. Whereas his first one had moment of real reflection upon his own nature, there really aren't any here. He sidesteps his neurosis entirely. There is no emotional honesty. That's dull - and add the fact that he also doesn't really give us much 'gossip' tidbits about his famous goings-on just adds to the boredom.
Finally, I must also admit to feeling greatly disappointed that he seems to hold Ben Elton in such esteem. He holds enough cache in my mind to make me slightly reconsider my opinion of the man, but not enough to alleviate all of my disappointment.
Summary: All surface, no depth and shockingly dull for such an intrinsically interesting man.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars wordy,
This review is from: The Fry Chronicles (Paperback)Stephen Fry likes words, you probably know this, he likes big words and little words and words somewhere in between, he likes common words and rare words and words which will send you scurrying for the dictionary. He likes lots of words, lots of unnecessary words. If it can be said in 10 words Stephen will use 100, he does at least acknowledge this and apologise for it though.
Stephen has lots of friends, some you will know and some you won't and Stephen likes talking about how simply wonderfully talented they all are darling,
Oh, but woe.
Stephen is unhappy, does he deserve all of this success? Is he just a charlatan and a cheat? Surely he isn't as wonderfully talented and brilliant as Hugh and Emma and Ben - did I mention how simply wonderfully wonderful they are?
And lists, there are lots of things listed lots and lots more names - did I mention Stephen likes to drop names? Names of wonderful darling people and things.
I loved Moab but I grew to dislike this book, it lessened my liking for the man himself in fact.
Should have been severely edited and about 150 pages shorter.
Oh and Stephen, have you seen any of the wonderfully talented Ben's output post Blackadder? Because if you have and you still think he's a genius I think your judgement is failing.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much better than Moab,
Recommended to those who enjoy a thumping good read.
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "If I had time I'd make this a short review", sorry, memoir,
It's a shame because with a strong copy editor I think the book could have come out well. He needed someone to help him find a stronger narrative arc - which must be hard to do when writing about your own life. It must be hard to find the emotional distance to see it as a stranger would. And he seriously needs someone to cut-cut-cut and tell him "you're going on a a bit here". Lobbing 100 pages off the book would help the book communicate so much better.
Stephen does like his long lists of inconsequential detail. At first I indulged him wittering about all the types of breakfast cereal there were when he was a boy. He is the loveable Stephen Fry after all.
But a lot of the detail didn't either a) move the story along or b) bring the characters to life. So I was turned off when he was detailing his Cambridge education including exactly what his room contained and what a gyp (scout) is. The long loving details about computers also bored me and felt self-indulgent. Also the use of very long sentences and obscure words. Egregrious is one he relishes rolling around his mouth.
He kept saying that he had to explain things to US readers. Which got me thinking that the book was not written for me as a Brit. Surely there was a way to organise the book so you have background texts at the back, in little codas. Or publish a UK and a US version?
I ended up skipping the refrains about how Stephen lapses into addiction and self-loathing and hates his body.I would rather he told a story to show us this, rather than tell us. Also how awkward he feels even though other people assume he's very privileged and establishment and smug and at ease. This seemed to contradict the loving details about the sumptuousness of his college accommodation and college traditions.
When he was on form, the stories were entertaining and I warmed to him again. I do remember enjoying a story about Stephen Sondheim faxing him in the 1980 as part of a treasure hunt clue. The section about him writing the book for Me and My Girl was genuinely interesting. I didn't know that the "book" - or non-sung dialogue in a musical is the story it all hangs on.
The bits about him meeting and working with Hugh Lawrie were interesting and I would have liked more on this partnership. And the anecdote about him taking leftie alternative comedian Ben Elton to a Tory genetleman's club where they were overheard by Lord Hailsham I think - who was not amused. The photo captions too were amusing.
Worth a read for the highlights if you can borrow it off a friend or wait for it to come out in paperback.
109 of 127 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stephen Fry - The patron saint of British intelligence,
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 "Moab is my washpot" 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" is 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.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Are we milking the franchise?,
121 of 142 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sugar Puff addiction? Stephen will help!!!,
'Moab is My Washpot' is perhaps the funniest book I've ever read and i was a constant irritation to my Wife whilst reading it as i kept laughing out loud. So 'THE FRY CHRONICLES' had a lot to live up to and i have to say it was worth the wait!!! Whatever background you come from, whatever class you are, Stephen has a great knack of drawing you into his world and basking in the tropical heat that is his wit and wisdom. From the start i was literally coughing up my "Scott's" porridge oats as i read about his cereal addiction through to his pompous pipe-smoking school-teacher anecdotes.
I am sorely tempted to hint at more but i don't want to spoil it for the reader.
If you love Stephen Fry you will "adore" this just as a cat bends itself around catnip. As with Colin Dexter you will need a dictionary to hand as Stephen's grasp of the English language is second to none and leaves us mortals in shame.
If Stephen reads this review i want him to know that a fellow bi-polar sufferer loves him very much and is very much emboldened by his ability to exist and give people soo much joy!
I would do "rudies" with Stephen anytime.
10/10 Didn't expect anything less really.
God bless Stephen Fry . . .
Most Helpful First | Newest First
The Fry Chronicles: A Memoir by Stephen Fry (Audio CD - 14 Oct 2010)