An Autobiography
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Fry, the British novelist (Making History, 1998) and TV and movie performer, turns thoroughly solipsistic with the story of his early life, taking us through his teens. (The tale follows, in large measure, that of the protagonist in his 1995 novel, The Liar). The engaging Mr. Fry admits to lies, thievery, homosexuality, excessive cleverness, and other peccadilloes in this boarding- school adventure that goes far beyond Tom Brown or Billy Bunter naughtiness. He revels in his proclaimed peculiarities, and “grieves” and “blushes” to confess to various youthful solecisms. There’s much about his first true love (for a schoolmate), “arses,” and the like amid the luxuriant verbal diversions and flicks of the author’s linguistic eyebrows. Almost unexpectedly, Fry expresses love and admiration for his family, who were, apparently, remarkably understanding as he worked his way through some particularly flamboyant juvenile angst. Adventure in his chosen profession of mummery must await the next installment, but surely Fry’s recently acclaimed impersonation of Oscar Wilde must have affected him greatly. Why else would he essay such epigrams as “It is a cliché that most clichés are true, but then like most clichés, that cliché is untrue.” It sounds a bit like a Wodehouseian take on Reginald Bunthorne. But what the bloody hell, it’s all so amusing, so ingratiating, don’t you see? Trouble is, on this side of the Atlantic the text is frequently as unintelligible as cricket. Only a devoted Anglophile could tell what “a First or a 2:1 as well as an inevitable triple haul of sporting Blues” at Cambridge might mean. And why his washpot, in which Fry “wallows,” is the same as the ancient land of Moab is not clear; the title remains a mystery. An author in the long and honorable tradition of English Eccentrics, Theatrical Division, presents his coming-of-age story. With all the wit and Pythonesque antics, his book will entertain the Masterpiece Theatre crowd—and others as well.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-375-50264-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1999


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