Last week saw the release of polymath, writer, broadcaster, actor and comedian Stephen Fry’s third autobiography, More Fool Me. How many is he planning to write, I hear you cry? However, it is not narcissism that motivated him in producing this latest book, but a desire to confess the darker aspects of his life during the 80s and 90s, at the height of his career.
Stephen Fry picks up where he left off in his previous book, The Fry Chronicles, as a consumer of the illegal Class A drug, cocaine. He confesses to a habit spanning 15 years, which has seen him take drugs in a variety of shocking places, including Buckingham Palace and in the Houses of Parliament (see page 69 for the jaw-dropping list; Stephen, how could you?) Furthermore, although he seems to reflect disdainfully on his foolish younger self, the autobiography does not at any point specify when he shrugged his addiction (maybe he’ll write a fourth instalment?)
Almost all media attention has been focused on the shocking substance-related confessions. However, the book offers much more than that: it is filled with insightful and often hilarious anecdotes of many contemporary successful figures, from Sinatra to Princess Diana, from Blur to every prominent figure in comedy. Laughter is inevitable. Furthermore, those familiar with Fry will know about his encyclopaedic knowledge and loquacious wit, making it an effortless, pleasurable read. And it does differ significantly from his previous two autobiographies, Moab Is My Washpot and The Fry Chronicles, which deal with his childhood, student years and early adulthood, respectively. Here, Fry is no longer a showbiz hopeful, but a man in his element, capable of everything. The language has an energy to it that matches the pace of Fry’s jam-packed life, particularly prominent in the final diary section of the book. His vivacious and larger-than-life character comes across very well and you do seem to be constantly learning quite interesting things. Students needing some motivation have just to look at Fry’s staggering work ethic and will feel immediately energised; such is the feel-good nature of the book.
The book is well-written and entertaining, giving us a very vivid portrait of Fry during two decades of his career. However, it is controversial and the medium of autobiography is always an unreliable one, as the memory plays tricks and things may have been omitted. It feels as if we are slightly less exposed to the essence of Fry than in his previous two autobiographies and his critics will have plenty of ammunition. That said, if you are looking for some light reading with guaranteed learning and giggling, I would recommend it.