This is Stephen Fry’s third autobiography. Some people would say that is two too many, but I’ll keep reading them if he keeps publishing them. I’ve actually listened to all three on audiobook, despite having bought at least one in dead tree format, because I can’t pass up a chance to listen to his narration.
I wasn’t in love with his second autobiography, The Fry Chronicles, and when I first discovered this had been released, I was worried about the reviews. The star ratings seemed low, and many of the reviews I skimmed seemed disappointed with the repetition of stories from previous volumes. There were also complaints that a long section of the end, an excerpt from his journal, was dull. I’m happy to report that neither of these were issues for me.
Much of the book is spent retelling old tales to catch new readers up, which is a little frustrating for us slobbering devotees, but I found those stories were told in a fresh way. Unless I’m remembering his past books incorrectly, he does approach each story with something new. I never felt like I was reading the Coles Notes of the first two books, as was my worry. The last third of the book is his journal from the mid-90s, which he kept while writing The Hippopotamus, a novel widely regarded as his best work of fiction (which I haven’t read yet). Reviewers seem to hate this portion, but I really enjoyed it. It’s a fun look into his life as a coked-up writer, partying each night and regretting his word count most mornings. Interestingly, Hugh Laurie was also writing his book The Gun Seller during this period, which prompted me to finally pick it up off the shelf and give it a read.
The only thing I couldn’t stand, but was also amused by, was Fry’s abbreviated words in his journal entries, and I can only imagine how awful it must have been to re-read that before including them in this book. I should have kept track, but here are some notable cutesy samples:
- Natch – naturally.
- Nov – novel.
- Dins – dinner.
- Stues – students.
- Voddy – vodka.
This resulted in sentences such as ‘Stayed for a voddy, and then to the Ivy for dins’. I’m going to blame the cocaine and move on.
I can’t promise that all who read this will be in love, but I thought it was great. It’s not a bad place to start if you want to jump in having never read one of the previous autobiographies, which I guess is what he was going for, but I’d still recommend starting with Moab is My Washpot.