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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does not disappoint
Having read "Moab is my Washpot" several years ago, I had been awaiting the next volume of Fry's autobiography with huge anticipation and high expectations. I certainly wasn't disappointed.
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,...
Published on 8 Nov 2010 by Darthy

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17 of 19 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 on 19 Feb 2012 by Stephen Hudson


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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does not disappoint, 8 Nov 2010
This review is from: The Fry Chronicles (Hardcover)
Having read "Moab is my Washpot" several years ago, I had been awaiting the next volume of Fry's autobiography with huge anticipation and high expectations. I certainly wasn't disappointed.
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.
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139 of 149 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book by a wonderful man, 23 Sep 2010
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This review is from: The Fry Chronicles (Hardcover)
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 university life that made me nostalgic for my own student days, an interesting account of the rise of alternative comedy, and the wonderful use of language for which is is so rightly admired. It is to his credit, and is a measure of the man, that there is barely a bad word uttered about anyone in this book unlike so many celebrity autobiographies.

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.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Advanced polymaths, 19 Feb 2012
By 
Stephen Hudson (Keynsham) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stephen Fry – The Fry Chronicles | Review, 4 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Fry Chronicles (Paperback)
The Fry Chronicles is the second autobiography from the pen of Stephen Fry, the British icon who’s more well-known as a television personality than as an author, despite the fact that he’s released half a dozen books of both fiction and non-fiction. He first cut his teeth writing sketches for A Bit of Fry and Laurie, which is (in my opinion) one of the cleverest and most well-written comedy sketch shows of all time.

In fact, he covers off the formative years of his relationship with comedy partner Hugh Laurie in the Fry Chronicles, as well as his meetings with dozens of other luminaries including Rowan Atkinson and Emma Thompson. It was published nearly twenty years after Fry’s first book, a novel called ‘The Liar‘ which was also autobiographical in places, and his writing style has developed and matured over the years. Now, he’s a truly talented writer with a unique voice and a wit and wisdom of his own.

Fry’s writing is complimented perfectly by a series of photographs from the author’s own archives, that detail everything from the young Fry and his parents (who look exactly like him) to “the backlit ears of Hugh Laurie” and posters and pictures of some of Fry’s earliest productions. In fact, in sharp contrast to Moab is my Washpot, Fry’s first autobiography which covered the first twenty years of his life, there’s a lot to learn here about Fry’s actual career.

As it goes, The Fry Chronicles is one of the more interesting celebrity autobiographies on the market, even if it is occasionally patchy in places; Fry also has a tendency to name-drop wherever possible, although it’s not really necessary as he’s a bigger star than most of the people that he mentions. In many ways, though, that’s forgivable – he’s just the sort of person who mingles with celebrities and minor royalty alike, and it’s probably due to his background at Cambridge.

The Fry Chronicles is interesting because the author used the letter ‘C‘ as a narrative device – all of his chapters begin with the letter ‘C”, ending on ‘cocaine‘ at his 30th birthday. I understand that this is a topic that he plans to deal with later in further detail, in a third volume of autobiography to be released at a later date. I look forward to reading it with some gusto, because if The Fry Chronicles and Moab is my Washpot are anything to go by, it’s going to be good. You should catch up with the series, before he writes and releases another one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pompous pretentious pillock or perspicacious philosophical polymath?, 19 May 2014
By 
P. Matthews (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Fry Chronicles (Paperback)
What to make of Stephen Fry's second autobiography, covering roughly his late teens to late twenties? Let's start with the bad points. There is much luvvie-worship and name-dropping throughout the book. Of course this is to be expected given the nature of his career, but we really do not need to be told umpteen times how marvellous Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie are, or given a long list of all the Radio 4 programmes and voices he likes. There is a lot of detail about exactly how everything works at Cambridge University. Either you didn't go there, in which case you probably don't care, or you did, in which case you know it all already. And if you want to know exactly which plays were put on by all the amateur dramatic societies in Cambridge in 1980, and the names of all the students who took part in them as actors or directors, you will find this section of the book fascinating. There is some rather silly wordplay - is it clever that each section starts with the letter C? My English eduction stopped at age 16 and I can do that stuff too (see title above).

That's enough negativity; now for the plus points. Firstly he shows that he is aware of his weak points, for example, apologising at the start for his wordiness and later saying how awful he must sound. He comes across as very modest in some ways and brutally honest, for example when describing his addictions to first sugar and then tobacco. The ups and downs of his bipolar thing come through (although this is not explicitly discussed), as he goes through periods of euphoria and times of despair and fear of being found out as an impostor. Perhaps the best bits are the general philosophical musings, about education, self-doubt and so-on, with some agonising appeals to the reader. He won't be reading the 246th Amazon review of his book, as he says he doesn't read reviews, but if he were, I would say yes Stephen, I sometimes feel like that too. There are also some amusing bits about the ancient history of the personal computer, and other snippets of nostalgia for those of a similar vintage.
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not enough, 21 Nov 2010
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This review is from: The Fry Chronicles (Hardcover)
Having enjoyed his first autobiography quite a lot, I was looking forward to this continuation. But I really have been disappointed. Firstly, it doesn't cover enough time. The whole thing feels like an exercise in fulfilling a book contract, with passages that seem to ramble about things just for the sake of space. And Fry goes completely overboard this time with all the 'Oh deary me, I'm so successful yet besieged by anxiety and self-hatred. Don't hate me for my success and misery, but I won't blame you if you do' stuff. There will always be this element in any of Fry's autobiographical works - I get that it's part of his charm, but I can't stress enough how OTT it is in this instalment. You do just want him to shut the hell up with all the apologising and get on with it.

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.
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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, 7 Dec 2010
By 
K. burke "bluepianissimo" (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fry Chronicles (Hardcover)
When I saw this book in the bookshop I was delighted, looking forward to a treat of 400-pages of entertaining anecdotes. I was disappointed. It was so verbose I ended up skim-reading most of it. And still feeling a bit short changed. Perhaps his fear of offending anyone is what keeps the text frothy and inconsequential.

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.
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109 of 127 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stephen Fry - The patron saint of British intelligence, 14 Sep 2010
By 
Red on Black - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fry Chronicles (Hardcover)
4.5 stars

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.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much better than Moab, 14 Dec 2010
By 
SilentSinger (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fry Chronicles (Hardcover)
Unlike most readers I found Fry's first autobiography 'Moab is my Washpot' to be rather overblown and a bit tedious so I was a bit cynical of reading his next instalment, despite my colleague's insistence that it was great. I surprised myself by really enjoying it and found Fry's life story between the ages of 20 to his mid 20s to be riveting. I suppose it's because it contains references which one can relate to - i.e. his first forays into comedy and some rather wicked anecdotes - if anyone can fail to laugh at the Miriam Margoles one then they're a bit of a sourpuss.

Recommended to those who enjoy a thumping good read.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Stephen Fry, 13 May 2012
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First of all, I enjoyed reading this book. There is no doubt that Stephen's character permeates every page and he has interesting stories to tell. It also includes a wealth of photos. I am a great admirer of Stephen Fry and possibly as a result I found this book a tad disappointing. I'm not saying its a bad book - in many ways its exactly what I would have expected. Yet, somehow, I expected more than this book delivered.

Its very Stephen - as much as I can tell from the public persona. And therein, I suspect, lies the problem.
The introspection, self analysis and doubt that we know is a part of him becomes a little too much when it regularly surfaces in the book, especially where, in his own words "If a thing can be said in ten words, I may be relied upon to take a hundred to say it."

Similarly we know that he can be a "bit of a lovey" and he does heap the praise on his nearest and dearest performing chums.

Its yin and yang, I think. I love that Stephen loves words, yet this is at times too wordy. I love that he has a strong sense of loyalty to his friends (a talented and intelligent lot) yet at times it verges on sycophancy. I love that he cares deeply, but do I really want to share the anxst over many pages.

Maybe, to indulge in a little introspection of my own, the problem lies with me. As a 'fan' I expect great things from my heroes. But heroes are people, just like the rest of us, and we all have our strengths and our weaknesses.

I can see why some people would love this book and I can see why some would not. I suspect it comes down to what you think of the author himself. If you like Stephen's work read this book and you will probably forgive any flaws you care to notice; if you don't then you will no doubt find reasons to dislike the book.
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