Fry lays prone on this particular edition’s front cover, with his legs crossed in the air smiling at the reader, reminding me of a scene from American Crime Story where Andrew Cunan malevolently does the same.
A strong start and end but quite dreary in the middle, like a parobolic U-shaped curve depicting lifetime happiness. When I was thinking of what to write for this review, I thought I’d mention that Fry is the anti-hero of of his own autobiography. I was quite pleased to see that Fry himself had written this in the afterword. It’s hard to like someone who is a compulsive liar and thief, no matter how funny or clever they are. These traits were exacerbated by his largely unreciprocated love for Matthew. It’s not all bad. The opening paragraphs, paint the picture of a young Fry who is going out of his way to console a bereft newcomer, Bunce, unaccustomed to being without his family. Fry also earns my admiration for being an early adopter of Usenet and to have done some phreaking in his time. Though the Bunce-Sweet affair did make me loathe Fry more. Here he got a school chum who looked up to him take the rap for something Stephen did, and had promised not to do but did it anyway. Of course, he got found out and was punished for it. He was very manipulative. In defense, I’m sure there are aspects of all our childhoods that we are ashamed of.
Having said all that, there are parts which are highly entertaining. Especially the hijinks he pulled on the poor school staff. Like when Mr Brewer presumed that the children were stealing and had an unceremonious dufflebag load of disgusting paraphernalia, dumped onto his counter at his own request. Evil genius. Or when he cleverly mocked a master for criticizing his vernacular, by using words like “pleonasm” and “sesquipedalian” as he was chastised for using too many words to describe something.
There are gems like:
My mother has an absolute passion for sour fruit and can strip a gooseberry bush quicker than a priest can strip a choirboy
It does turn into a gay romance novel towards the end which was surprisingly entertaining.
An interesting bit of trivia is, that his grandfather (a jewish man) may have given Hitler the coat off his back as an act of kindness. Of course then ironically Hitler ended up massacring his people. His writing is heartfelt, verbose, and bombastic (could have used magniloquent here for irony…). What annoyed me about this book was Fry’s copious use of french words. My dictionary didn’t have many of these phrases in it and I had to perform web searches to find the meaning, sometimes to no avail.
I am impressed at his lack of filter, his entire early life is laid bare to the utmost detail. From suicide attempt, to deflowering by buggery to rather outré (to borrow Fry’s own word) paraphilia which I’ll detail now. Watching fellow pupils take dumps in the woods (playing ruddies), running around naked at school with a friend (also being watched slamming his dick in the door), shoving a finger up his arse in front of others. Last but not least, wanking off pupils as morning fag.
Fry says jokingly that, he knew he was gay the moment he exited the womb. This hyperbole aside, he goes on to say that the public school system should not be held accountable for his sexuality. I do agree with him to a certain extent. He’s right when he says many people including his brother attended public school and did not turn out to be gay themselves. True. But I think it’s Fry’s public school experience itself, which may have been a factor (see above).
Fry advocates corporal punishment with the old hackneyed “Didn’t do me no harm!”. Essentially here telling children that violence is the answer. He also argues that for him the cane was more humane than detention because it was over more quickly and it gave him battle scars to brag about. The cane did not stop him from being expelled or repeat offending. And for that reason you can see that it was totally ineffective. He is also bizarrely pro fox-hunting arguing on a traditionalism basis. I’m sure you could argue that female genital mutilation, paederasty and slavery are all traditional and we should carry on with those too eh?
This book explained the abhorrent fagging system to me. I’d always wondered why there were these gay clichés and other jokes surrounding public school children, now I know. Put simply, aspects of it are akin to slavery. I hope this practice has been largely abolished to date. I know that it has been watered down extensively over the years.