Friday, July 08, 2011

Stephen Fry, The Fry Chronicles, 2010.

The Fry Chronicles picks up where Moab Is My Washpot left off, offering a vertiginous stream of wordplay and eloquence to describe a portion of Fry’s life—in this case, his years at university and just thereafter as he establishes his career. It ends just before Fry and Hugh Laurie are to begin a tour of England to prepare for A Bit of Fry and Laurie, and with the start of a new problem that we readers are to assume will challenge Fry’s life for some time to come.

Fry writes his story lightly, interspersed with understandable but too frequent heavy-handed apologies for the what- some-might-consider-trivial woes that mark his life story. Except for these asides, his writing is deeply engaging. We are immersed first in the world of Cambridge, and learn how he finds his way into the Footlights, and then brought into the world of television in London (and radio, and magazines, and musicals). Characteristic throughout is his sense of discomfort in his environs, always suspecting that he’ll be found out to have less talent than he has been credited with by others, and it’s this feeling that gives plot to what is otherwise a fairly linear string of events in Fry’s life. Told otherwise, his biography would seem nearly golden: despite a few expulsions and an arrest for credit card fraud, he attends Queens’ College, Cambridge, and then soars to a magnificent career as an entertainer, earning and receiving opportunity after chance and indulging tastes for cars and computers along the way. Yet this insecurity never distanced me from Fry as I read: it’s the signature element of who he is, rather than an affectation, and I found it both endearing and easy to identify with.

I’ll look forward to the next volume.

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