Book review: A flippant fry-up
Stephen Fry's third instalment in his series of memoirs - More Fool Me - is witty and characteristically erudite, but has about as much fabric as a silk negligee
Oh deary dearington, as Stephen Fry would probably address himself in this vainglorious attempt to solicit... I'm not sure, really. more money than he already has?
"It must be confessed that this book is an act as vain and narcissistic as can be imagined: the third volume of my life story?" Those are Fry's words, not mine. Compared to Moab Is My Washpot or The Fry Chronicles, More Fool Me seems forced and trivial. The real Stephen Fry - that tenable, intellectual, self-parodying, self-castigating, hilariously witty stalwart of eruditeness, whose antics from Jeeves And Wooster or A Bit of Fry and Laurie left us in splits - is mostly gone. The Stephen of More Fool Me is actually quite an insufferable git, gallivanting about social circles like a mayfly in the breeze, recounting his stay at the Savoy and his many escapades at exclusive clubs.
The memoir starts out with honesty - a glimmer of the old Fry; minus the Twitter followers. "I consider myself incompetent when it comes to the business of living life," is what he says in the very first, short chapter of the book. There's also a bit of backtracking - which he wittily asks readers to skip while taking a nap, putting the kettle on or doing a bit of gardening. He recalls some of his already recalled (in his previous memoirs) tales, like his arrest and incarceration for credit card fraud, the subsequent devastating pain he caused his parents; there's even a story of how he used to bully a Mr Sawdon, who had trembling hands, and how he wanted "to stick a pen in his throat" in shame for what he did back then, particularly when he found out that the man was a true war hero, suffering from shellshock from fighting in the trenches.
This passage of recollection is followed by some more recollection from Fry's days struggling with not just his addiction to class A substances, but to food. There are stories of how and when he first met his mate for life, actor Hugh Laurie (and an interesting bit about that name too) and the people he still has close ties to, like Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh. There's also a lovely story of meeting Prince Charles and Lady Diana for the first time and how he had them over for lunch with his houseguests scampering around.
But through all of this, you get the sense that there's memoir-esque revelations and then there's rambling. Which brings us to the next section: 150 pages (about half the book) of diary entries from August to November of 1993. During this time, Fry gets some massages and plays golf while at the Grayshott Spa; writes The Hippopotamus, his novel that came out in 1994; gets a portrait made; attempts to pen something for Elton John; does some voiceovers, and name drops several obscure (accompanied by helpful footnotes) and not-so-obscure people. There are meet-ups with his separated-but-conjoined best friend Hugh and their family.
But there's no real substance. Nothing worth knowing or connecting with. Definitely not a Fry worth connecting with. He just seems self-obsessed and vain throughout that entire charade of a write-up. In fact, it feels very much like the chore he makes The Hippopotamus seem to be, as he describes trying to put the words together for his publisher to birth it into the literary world.
For all that this book could have been, it's a shame what it actually is. There are, though, some great pictures and accompanying captions of a younger, boyish Fry. He is certainly much more human now than he was in the 90s, clearly. Perhaps his next vainglorious memoir won't be so disparate from the Fry we've all come to love and admire.
More Fool Me
> 380 pages
> Publisher: Penguin
> Available at Jashanmal