Books: Fry 3 and J W Wray

Better sexy and racy than sexist and racist. Stephen Fry

The talented Stephen Fry making fools of us

By Ralph McAllister

Fry MoabBefore starting the diatribe let me tell you that I am a huge fan of Stephen Fry.

Moab is My Washpot and The Fry Chronicles, the first two of Fry’s autobiographies, remain firm favourites of mine.

The wit, erudition and sheer fun  employed by Fry as he described growing up at boarding school, being sent to prison, his early work with Laurie, Cleese,Thompson and a legion of others remain firmly embedded in my happiest memories.

Fry the ChroniclesSo it was with great anticipation that I started to read the third, More Fool Me (Angus Robertson $50) which, without intending to be cruel, might have been better titled, More Fool Us. The book is in three parts.

The first part is a rehash of the first two books and, to give Fry his due, he does suggest that confirmed addicts (oops, sorry) might like to skip the hundred or so pages.

The second part is worse as Fry dwells in tedious detail on his cocaine habit of some fifteen  years. We even have an extended list of some 50 places where he used the lavatories in which to shoot up.
Does anyone really care that Buckingham Palace or the Houses of Parliament were venues for the less than attractive deeds? And all the time we are offered vacillating views on the nature of his addiction, almost as if he wanted to have his cake, sorry coke, and eat it.

Even more disappointing is the final part where, for no apparent reason, we are offered the diary accounts of his, largely, social life, in the early nineties, with much name dropping and then more name dropping.

Admittedly, amongst the dross, there are some vintage Fry stories, like the account of preparations in the household for the Prince of Wales coming to tea.

But these are few and far between.

I remain his defender

FryIs there a more consistently brilliant programme over the last ten years than BBC’s QI, a show which would have fallen by the wayside without Fry?

I saw his Malvolio last year and his serious nature was never better revealed in the filmed Globe production.His hosting of BAFTA each year is a triumph of wordplay and audacity of the highest order.

So what else can I say except perhaps this More Fool Me will go down as one of his more foolish things.


A fascinating tale of the South Seas

South Sea Vagabonds by J. W.Wray (Harper Collins $45) is a completely different kettle of fish.

J W WrayThis true story of Wray’s was first published 75 years ago and starts with the young Wray losing his job during the depression.
He knows absolutely nothing about building but decides to start the construction of a boat.
He commandeers his parents’ front garden and tells us, in great detail, how he accomplished the task of creating his dream yacht Ngataki.

The second part shares with us his adventures with a few mates around the South Pacific.
The storms, the parties, the welcomes from small island communities, all are told in gripping, simple prose, which keep you afloat with fascination.

Confession: I would never have dreamt of reading this book without the warm recommendation from my local Paper Plus.

Now I have the perfect do it yourself book to offer my “do it yourself” brother for Christmas.

Next article – some novels for holiday reading which are not mentioned in the somewhat mundane Listener list.

Happy reading.