Stephen Fry…. Genius? Bastard?

I’ve just finished reading Fry’s The Hippopotamus. Yes, I know I shouldn’t be reviewing a booking that was first published fifteen years ago, and don’t worry, I’m not going to. It’s a little difficult to think of Stephen Fry, and much of his work, in a critical light.

I was never a fan of Fry and Laurie, or Jeeves and Wooster. Neither particularly floated my boat.

My fascination, my love, of Stephen Fry and his work started when I read his first novel, The Liar. A deeply personal and semi-autobiographical coming of age novel. A kind of English, middle-class Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a comparison I’m sure he’d hate. But it’s a personal equivalent, both of them touched me and helped me to identify who I am in a way I still find difficult to put into words. Without experiencing either The Liar or Ferris Bueller I would be a very different person, in the same way that if I had never read that first Conan novel when I was fourteen, I wouldn’t have discovered fantasy, horror and science fiction and very probably wouldn’t even be writing this now.

Stephen Fry is one of those people with an incredible memory, with such written skill and humour that it makes you hate his talent. He’s one of those people you would love to meet and have a conversation with, but when faced with him, you probably wouldn’t be able to mutter a single word.

I know Stephen Fry only from his work – including his Blackadder appearances – I’ve never met the man, so I can say all this in complete ignorance. I set my Virgin + box to diligently record QI, Stephen’s current dispensary of knowledge, a quiz show for those less intelligent than the great man. Which is all of us.

Fry’s novels make me weep, not only because he draws you into the lives of his characters in a way few people can, not even because his books are sometimes so funny that tears drip from the corners of your eyes, but because it sickens me that I don’t have half the talent he does. That’s why I have to hate him, envy.

If you’ve never read a Stephen Fry book then you’ve deprived yourself, and you should remedy this immediately.

The Hippopotamus is a funny, irreverent, and highly enjoyable read.  To review it would be to do it a disservice.  Fry’s poet and critic Edward Wallace is my hero, as is his creator.  Enough said.

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