Stephen Fry
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumStephen Fry
Stephen Fry (b. 1957) is a man of many parts: actor, writer, director, comedian, librettist, presenter, journalist, voice artist; he is also a populist academic, compulsive twitterer and instinctive pedagogue. Epithets like ‘national treasure’, ‘polymath’, ‘phenomenon’ and ‘Renaissance Man’ frequently precede his name. A ubiquitous figure on British screens, he is arguably best known for the pompous authority figures he played in the definitive comedy series Blackadder, though his roles in Jeeves and Wooster, Not the Nine O’Clock News, A Bit of Fry and Laurie and the film Wilde did much to bolster his profile. Currently QI, a comedic quiz show with an intellectual edge, provides him with the ideal vehicle by which to convey his wit, erudition and linguistic athleticism. This brilliance comes at a price: specialists have diagnosed him as a sufferer of Cyclothymic Disorder, an illness he explores with great frankness in the documentary Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic-Depressive.

 Given his remarkable fecundity across the Arts, it is just as well that we will be focusing on one particular region of his creative Empire. As a writer he possesses an instantly recognisable voice – one which is by turns, and often at the same time, referential, satiric, learned, neologising, self-deprecating, exuberant, irreverent, outrageous and frank. His prose is almost always humorous and at its heart lies… well… heart. Fry, the unceasing humanist – the carer, giver, hoper, dreamer, general wisher-well to all humanity – rarely fails to shine through. Self-confessed influences include Oscar Wilde, P.G. Wodehouse, Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis – all popular writers in their own lifetime, as indeed Fry has proven to be in his own.

Whilst still at Cambridge University, where he read English literature, he wrote the play Latin! or Tobacco and Boys, in which a paederastic aesthete falls in love with a pupil whilst warring against the forces of philistinism. This won him the Edinburgh Festival Fringe First award. In 1984 he rewrote the libretto for Me and My Girl, which was short-listed for a Tony Award in 1987. His first novel The Liar (1991) was showered in plaudits and quickly rose to the top of the bestseller list. The novel – a comic but touching Bildungsroman – traces the progress of a troubled, flamboyant, dissembling but brilliant public school boy who falls desperately in love with a first-former. This was followed by The Hippopotamus (1994), in which a grizzly old buffer of a poet shambles and excoriates his way through a high-society rammed adventure. Though some of the details of the plotting may fade, the scene in which an adolescent boy makes love to a horse is difficult to forget.

Making History (1996) is perhaps the least polished of his four novels, but nevertheless explores fascinating speculative terrain. It presents a version of modern life as it might have been had Germany, led by a different tyrant, been victorious in the 2nd World War. The Stars' Tennis Balls (2000) is a psychological thriller. The title is taken from John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi: the full sentence goes "We are merely the stars' tennis balls, struck and banded which way please them." As Fry explains, the story "is a straight steal, virtually identical in all but period and style to Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo".

His collection of occasional writings – Paperweight ­ – conveys a powerful sense of his range as a writer, as well as the breadth and precocity of his thinking. Fry’s restless intellect has compelled him to write such instructive texts as The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within, a frankly excellent guide – by virtue of its clarity, logical sequencing and sustained entertainment value – to the understanding and writing of metrical poetry. Other such edifying tomes include Rescuing the Spectacled Bear: A Peruvian Journey (2002), Stephen Fry's Incomplete History of Classical Music (2004) and Stephen Fry in America (2008).

Fry continues to be prolific, and even the more frivolous scraps of writing in the form of his ‘tweets’ command a formidable following. The second installment of his memoirs, The Fry Chronicles, was published in September 2010. 




Interview: Big Think                                                                                                                          

The New Adventures of Stephen Fry (official website)

Stephen Fry Twitter Page

Wikipedia Entry

A Fansite

Recent article about Fry and life

Directory of Stephen Fry links