Saturday, 8 January 2011

The Fry Chronicles

Stephen Fry

This book is in turn a frank and amusing conversation with an old friend, an in-depth picture of a world I am fascinated by (Cambridge Footlights and the Britcom scene that stems from it), and a warning-by-example for my own future. I expected the first two, but not the third.

The examples cuts both ways. There's a Do and a Don't.

The Do:

I'm positively not alone in joining Stephen in the battlefield between self-indulgence and self-disgust, nor the similar setting for brutality that lies between needing to be liked by other people and not always liking yourself.

The author states that pretending to be confident and smooth and okay and at ease with yourself can form the habit that leads to a pretty good simulacrum of those same states. But his example speaks more strongly still; pretending to be these things is the same thing as being them. However false that looks from the inside.

The Don't:

Among the many things Fry lambasts about himself, one stuck out to me like a sore thumb on a hand with no fingers. If only I was more focused! he cries. If only I didn't try my hand at everything!

It's no surprise to me that his earliest ambitions were in the direction of novels; after all, his novels are the best thing he's done, without Hugh Laurie's help. And it's no surprise that, lacking boringly singular focus, he is not known primarily as a novelist. It's no surprise that his (excellent) novels never reached the heights he is capable of. If only he was more focused!

When I learnt that he was in his 30s by the time A Bit Of Fry & Laurie started, I was struck by how much time that gave me. Having missed out on Footlights, I've always thought myself far too late to get into comedy writing, but it turns out I have 6 years+.

But no! Focus! Try and write the best novel you can. (And you're a confident lovely person. Deal with it.)


  1. This book made me want to do more with my life. I didn't, but it made me want to.

  2. Ah! Focus (or lack thereof) is indeed my downfall. I end up dabbling in too many things and not giving anything enough focus to really excel at it. This sounds like a really interesting read.