Oh, Stephen. Oh, deliciously wicked Stephen. What troubles come your way and how quickly they pass on by. For yours is a life of ineffable privilege and Houdini sleight.
Fry’s life story has reached his 30s when wealth, fame and friends ensure he negotiates bumps like a hovercraft. He is as comfortable as a tweed jacket and a pair of well-appointed brogues.
A Bit Of Fry And Laurie, Blackadder, copious writing and theatrical exploits, his first best-seller. Every friend a name, every scrape a humdinger.
The Prince and Princess of Wales drop in for tea and crumpets in Norfolk; Damien Hirst drops £20,000 Turner prize dosh at an all-nighter at the Groucho; Fry is slagged off by a Gallagher, loved by Johnny Mills and dines endlessly at high-end clubs and hotels with celebs, confidantes and insiders although he’s politely discreet about anything untoward.
Except his own brazen vice. For at every opportunity our hero is in the lavs snorting coke like there’s no tomorrow.
Pish, tush and never mind. A brush with police glides by, the Aids epidemic crosses on the other side. Say “botty” and doors that are closed for others, open for you.
These stories in the hands of a less entertaining raconteur would be fingernails on a chalkboard. But silky, self-deprecating Stephen has a way. A way with words, of course, and a way with story, a way with people.
“But truly,” he says fluttering a fan coyly over his embarrassment. “I hear what I consider to be the voice of the reader, your voice. Hundreds of thousands of you, wincing, pursing your lips, laughing here, hissing there, nodding, tutting, comparing your life to mine with as much objective honesty as you can.”
Yes, he is that imp. The boy who looks to his gran with illicit chocolate round his chops and says, “I cannot tell a lie” with such wide-eyed bravado that he gets, not censure, but an extra slice on the sly.
There is much about this book that provokes frustration. It has a half-baked, flung-together feel, old material is re-hashed and slabs of diary feel like place-holders for the bits he never got round to writing.
But, Fry is such an endlessly enticing companion and his writing is such a guilty pleasure. You shouldn’t but you will.