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The Fry Chronicles Hardcover – 13 Sep 2010
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438 pages. Ex-Library. Book and Jacket are both in Very good condition throughout.
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I have read this book shortly after reading Fry's autobiography of his first twenty years:Moab Is My Washpot. That was a 5+ star read, by comparison this I rate as meriting 4 stars. If I had not read Maob I would have given The Chronicles 5 stars.
Why the difference and diminution? Well, Maob, the best autobiography I have read, contains by quick turn side splitting humour and an onion peeling baring of Fry's inner workings, feelings and motivations. I thought it logical to assume that The Chronicles would be more of the same and this was what I was expecting.
Whilst it is true to say that there are many pages that do carry on this vein, there are also many others that simply recount Fry's early career in terms of how it all began, how he obtained work, what he worked on and who he worked with, etc. Of course this is interesting and indeed necessary because the autobiography has to tell us about how he spent these pivotal ten years of his life, but for me, what set Maob apart was Fry's brave, candid lifting off of his mask and assumed persona to reveal his true self. I found this absolutely fascinating and I admire and appreciate Fry's willingness to do this. It is simply that this book contains less of that.
I also found this book to be less funny.
Having said all of this, there is no question that this is anything but a highly engaging, entertaining, revealing, and at times, amusing read. (Of interest too is as account of how comedy developed in England in the 1980s.) There is much that is laid bare and consequently we do learn an awful lot more about Fry and I would not wish to deter anyone from reading his chronicles.
If you have not read Maob I strongly suggest that you read that first.
In terms of what I would expect from Fry this was a little more what I had expected than the first book. You could certainly see parts of who he seems to be now coming out. In some ways it seemed a little self-obsessed (but can one really write an autobiography without it being a little self-obsessed?). I never really got the idea that he was elevating himself, if anything he was quite humble and even at times would tell himself off for being a little self-obsessed (which never seemed like he was pretending, more like he couldn't understand why people would be interested). All the way through there was a certain level of disbelief that he had become famous. It was obvious he didn't feel he deserved it, and from what he said in his more present voice he seemed still not to quite believe how lucky he has been. In a way this was the element of the book which most surprised me.
On adding this book to goodreads I had a quick flick through the (spoiler free) reviews (it's something I often do, just reading the first few lines of each review to get a general picture of how people found the book). I happened to catch sight of a review which suggested that the book was a bit to name-droppy (and no that isn't a real word, I don't care). This did cause me a bit of worry. I'm not one of those people who is really into celebrity culture (I think I am right in saying that this is the one celebrity biography I have read). However I don't think I needed to be worried. There were maybe a few name-drops that were unnecessary but most of the time he mentioned people who were friends or who he had worked with, I don't think you can really write a whole autobiography without mentioning any friends or colleges.
The descriptions of Fry's time at Cambridge were more interesting than I had expected too although not as interesting as wen the `fame thing' started.
At time it had me laughing out loud but in general I wouldn't describe it as a comic book- still it was almost worth reading just for Hugh Laurie's reaction to Fry buying his first Apple Mac.
Only real problem I had with it is that the way it ended made it very obvious that Fry intended to write another autobiography. Which almost forces you to read it. I mean his life isn't over so I suppose another biography would be expected but I would like to feel I have more choice.
Oh and one more thing, there were a few points where I thought the Kindle edition might be different to the paperback. Just things which seemed to suggest you were on an e-reader. Does anyone know if there are any differences?
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Then I read this book.
An emetic masterpiece of humblebrag.Read more