Stephen Fry's first volume of autobiography, "Moab Is My Washpot", was a superb book, and I was really looking forward to reading this. I'm a huge admirer of Stephen Fry but, "Moab" aside, have never taken to his books for some reason. Anyway, I launched myself into this one expecting joys.
Sadly the book is overlong and frankly rather dull. Split into three broad sections it continues his story from his university years until the success of the musical "Me And My Girl" and the beginnings of his TV career, ending just before the recording of the pilot for "A Bit Of Fry and Laurie". The first section is rather odd, seemingly an attempt to cover things he'd missed from "Moab", such as a lengthy segment on his childhood obsession with Sugar Puffs and all things sweet, but he makes it clear that he won't be covering stories he's previously detailed in the previous book, and he veers wildly through the years, skipping right up to 2007 or so. This whole section - all 64 pages of it - is frankly a mess and I found it rather a chore to read, partially because he took his wordiness to ludicrous extremes several times, particularly in the following passage. Fry explains that whenever he mentions something which was covered in "Moab" he will insert a dagger symbol - it looks like a crucifix - in the text, but does he say it in such a simple way? No. I quote: "Where I mention events from my past that I covered there I shall append a superscribed obelus, thus."
The second section covered his university years, focusing primarily on his time with the Footlights company, and although it was an improvement on the opening there was rather a lot of "luvviness" to be found as he name-drops relentlessly and tells us many times how wonderful the likes of Emma Thompson are. Finally, the third section sees Fry leave university and begin work on a number of failed TV shows until he finally finds success with the book for "Me And My Girl". Of the three sections I found this one the most interesting.
As I mentioned at the start I found the book overlong. It's a thick hardback - 425 pages in total - but it could have been cut by at least a hundred, maybe more. The print is large but it seems Fry was working to a specific word target, and so the text is padded out with numerous lists, such as sweets he remembered from childhood, gentlemens' clubs in London, street names in New York and so on. Each of these struck me as being padding, rather than important.
The book ends suddenly, just after the opening night of "Me And My Girl" in New York, and he promises that there will be a third volume (he also hints earlier on that he may write a book on his love of technology - and yes, he says how wonderful Apple are a few times in the book) but I'm afraid I won't be buying it unless it is a marked improvement on this.
Sorry, Stephen. I still love your work on TV, but I was disappointed by this book.
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.
on 21 October 2011
Having read this, and gained a small understanding of Mr. Fry's issues with self-esteem, I'm slightly worried about only giving this 3 stars. I adore your work Stephen, but you've really got to stop apologising for everything and going off on those long-winded tangents!
Like a couple of other reviewers, I thought some of the writing felt like it was a book written to satisfy publishers than one that he really loved writing. There were some brilliantly lovey moments (particularly whenever Alan Bennett came into the picture) and I did learn things I didn't know about the author - I can't stand musicals, but it was interesting to learn the whole 'Me and My Girl' stuff. I'm also delighted that Ben Elton is held in such high regard by Fry. Terribly unfashionable these days, I know, but the man is a genius.
Overall, a curate's egg. So much name-dropping it got a little tedious ('I was there when Richard Curtis thought of Comic Relief' - yawn, stop trying to be an Oxbridge Forrest Gump) and please, spare us the techno-infatuation.
Would just about recommend (please don't hate me for that, Stephen - you are a very clever and lovely bloke!)
on 4 August 2014
I enjoyed Stephen Fry's stories and narration very much. As soon as I finished it I started to listen again from the beginning. I also bought the Audio version and sometimes read and listened at the same time. Stephen Fry has an excellent style and many anecdotes. He seams to be very confident but in fact he is tormented by insecurities. I sympathised with his agonies and addictive personality. I recommend this book to all those who are interested in autobiographies.
on 29 July 2011
I had high hopes for this book by a hugely entertaining comedian .... it failed to live up to any of them. It is truly awful.
It is the worst sort of drawn out navel gazing yet without any real insight or structure. It does not engage with the reader at all, being basically the same 3 concepts repeated ad nauseam:
I am so lucky to have enjoyed a rich and priveleged life (cue description of University, Aston Martin etc)
But I never feel fulfilled. I am unhappy and needy. Oh woe is me.
I apologise for moaning about being unhappy when I have so much and should be happy. Repeat repeat repeat repeat.
Then sprinkle in a few alliterations and long words to make it Fry-ish. Lazy.
There is a huge amount of repetition, but no progression and reads as though it was not edited at all (or perhaps they have taken a chapter of an autobiography and padded it to make a book ....)
Stephen does not offer any thoughts that provoke the reader to reflect, but rather fills out the book clumsily with long lists of "and then I was in this play with A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J" etc. List after list of name drops but no real insight about the events: do we really need to know his 16 favourite Musc Hall acts just to evidence that he takes insiration from Music Hall. Repeat repeat repeat.
This takes the place of any interesting or amusing anecdotes of what was surely a fascinating world ... I think there are exactly two such stories in the book.
Sorry - Stephen Fry is funny and stimulating as a television presenter. As an author, he is the exact opposite.
on 26 September 2011
On the whole I found this enjoyable and easy to read, particularly the section on student life in Cambridge and work with the Footlights.
HOWEVER... Fry describes the development of his career in detail, and his book is sprinkled with the names of actors, writers, plays and TV programmes. Since I myself did not live in the UK during the eighties, many of these names mean very little to me. No doubt it would all be very fascinating for a reader who had some memory or knowledge of the personalities involved, but not for me. (I did find his descriptions interesting when I actually knew who or what he was talking about, for instance "Blackadder".)
Fry was successful more or less right from the moment he left university, and quickly became extremely wealthy. He used his money in what he himself admits was a trivial way, spending it on expensive houses, cars, clubs, and the latest technology. He spends a great deal of time - too much - explaining how in spite of his success and wealth, he is plagued by a sense of failure, of being a fraud, of not really belonging in the worldly circles in which he appears to move with such ease. No doubt this is perfectly sincere, no doubt it is also worth saying, but I got bored long before he'd finished saying it.
The Kindle formatting is OK on the whole, but it isn't able to cope with a speech from one of his plays and the text of a magazine article. They are not distinguished visually from the surrounding text, which particularly in the case of the speech is confusing, as it takes the reader a minute to realise that this is not actually Fry speaking. Kindle still needs to refine its formatting.
I would give this 3½ stars. Since I have to choose between rounding up and rounding down, I prefer to round down. It doesn't reach 4, as far as I'm concerned.
on 1 October 2010
I am a Stephen Fry fan. He is wonderful in the Blackadders, born to be Jeeves, and I can quote huge reams of 'A Bit of Fry and Laurie'. I own and have enjoyed Paperweight, and I have read Moab, the Liar and the Hippopotamus. I even quite liked the chummy 'Peter's Friends', in which he appeared to be playing himself.
However, I found myself disappointed and disgusted by this book. Fry has always been one to wear his insecurities like badges of honour - the bipolarity, the insecurity - but here he depicts himself as the lonely outsider, the different child who just couldn't help but eat sweets, which led to smoking and cocaine. 'Why am I different?' he asks. I don't wish to answer his question for fear of being thoroughly rude and judgmental.
The levels of narcissistic wallowing and self-pity in this tome are unbearable. several times he acknowledges that people don't want to hear that the rich and famous are glum and unhappy, yet still he insists in shoving our faces in his self-loathing. his desire to persuade the reader that he had such a troubled, unhappy, misunderstood youth is so great that it made me wonder why he was so insistent. 'Methinks he doth protest too much.'
Added to this are attempts at humour, punning wordplay and luvvie anecdote of the coarsest and basest kind. He is aware of his ability to squander his gifts, which he details at some length throughout the book, so quite why he finds it necessary to illustrate this in such offensive manner remains a mystery.
He is at his best describing the rarified world of Cambridge in the late 70s, and in his obvious and sincere affection for Emma Thompson, Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Laurie.
but that is small fare: I learnt nothing new about the complex and pitiful Fry from this, other than an awareness of how grotesque and gross can one person's dissatisfaction with himself be.
I'll still watch QI, listen to my audio Blackadders, and recite Fry and Laurie sketches, but I think I'll pass on later autobiographical installments.
on 27 April 2016
Husband and I love listening to Stephen Fry, he is so eloquently spoken and articulate. As for the content, it's very enjoyable listening to the formative events which shaped the man we see in the media. Stephens honesty is refreshing, and he is as willing to admit to his errors in judgment as he is his successes ... probably even more so.
on 19 October 2010
I am a big Stephen Fry fan, but this book was a disappointment.
448 pages of articulate whingeing. A shallow, luvvie world with relatively few insights. Come on Stephen, you can do better than this.
on 12 January 2016
I am a fan of Stephen Fry and I enjoyed reading this book, which gives the impression that he is standing in front of you giving an account of his life. To those that are unfamiliar to the man, the style of the book may seem to ramble on about seeming meaningless incidents in one person's life.