Reading Stephen Fry’s memoirs is like catching up with the oldest and very best of friends. One of Britain’s most loved celebrities, Fry has just published his third volume of autobiography, which follows Moab is My Washpot and The Fry Chronicles. The blurb of More Fool Me: A Memoir heralds it ‘a brilliant, eloquent account by a man driven to create and to entertain – revealing a side to him he has long kept hidden’.
More Fool Me tells of Fry’s life during the 1980s and early 1990s. At this point in time, Fry had ‘made it’ as a bestselling author, and was the star of television programmes such as Jeeves and Wooster and A Bit of Fry and Laurie. As Fry warmly tells us, ‘There are all kinds of ways of looking at me and my story’, and then modestly goes on to state the following: ‘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? There are plenty of wholly serviceable single-volume lives of Napoleon, Socrates, Jesus Christ and even Katie Price. So by what panty-dribbling right do I present a weary public with yet another stream of anecdote, autobiography and confessional?’
As well as retrospective views of his life in this period, More Fool Me contains extracts from Fry’s original diaries. Rather than present things in a strictly chronological order, Fry has chosen to ‘bounce from theme to theme’, a technique which works marvellously. From the very beginning of More Fool Me, Fry’s warmth and sense of humour shine through: ‘I flatter myself, vainly perhaps, that I have been having a dialogue with you… But truly do I hear what I consider to be the voice of the reader, your voice. Yes, yours. Hundreds of thousands of you, wincing, pursing your lips, laughing here, hissing here, nodding, tutting, comparing your life to mine with as much objective honesty as you can’.
Each part of More Fool Me is split into varied essay-length sections, which deal with things ranging from the dark – Fry’s cocaine addiction: ‘I can’t begin to explain it, but I can at least attempt to describe it’, his friends succumbing to HIV, and his struggle with Bipolar Disorder, to the cheerful – being chairman of the Criterion Theatre in London, his writing habits, and recommendations of books to read. In terms of its themes, More Fool Me is darker and far more adult in terms of what is discussed than Moab is My Washpot and The Fry Chronicles. Fry does rather helpfully recap his previous autobiographies and earlier life, so it is not of paramount importance to have read his work already. More Fool Me is also filled with facts and information which clarify or further explain points which are made.
It goes without saying that More Fool Me is incredibly well written. Fry is so honest about himself, and owns up to the mistakes which he has made. He also continually pokes fun at himself, and asserts that he is incredibly grateful for the kindness which fame has afforded him. As ever, he is rather profound, and so understanding of those around him and humbled by the help which they have given to him. The structure which he has made use of makes it feel as though Fry is having an intimate conversation with each reader, addressing them directly as he does throughout. It feels almost as though he is letting every single person into his most intimate secrets.
More Fool Me is so easy and rewarding to read, and it is both heartening and inspiring to see how Fry has triumphed over some of the darker episodes in his life. Whilst it breaks away from the safety and warmth of most of the things described in his previous volumes of autobiography, every fan of Mr Fry’s is sure to very much enjoy this book.