I was once mistaken for Stephen Fry by a group of excited British schoolchildren. It was midwinter in Austria and it has to be said I was muffled suitably against the inclement weather thus, fortunately, little of my face was visible. [note to myself – see a dermatologist]. Let it be understood, I have been trying by all means possible to make the image smaller and less conspicuously grotesque.
My companion – with spectacular presence of mind – walked over to the adolescent squeakers and gawpers on the other side of the street and entreated them to ‘leave him alone, he’s here for a bit of peace and quiet’ which they were courteous enough to do. I only mention this because I happened to pick up a copy of his latest book – ‘The Fry Chronicles’ and am two-thirds of the way through it. In times past, people have been kind (or misguided) enough to apportion the sobriquet of ‘wordsmith’ to my lumbering efforts. If so, I am a blacksmith to Stephen’s filigree jeweller. The man uses words as if they were liquid, dripping and coruscating honey on to the page. Comes from three wasted years at Cambridge and a degree in Eng Lit, I suppose.
He is an atheist – probably troubled by guilt – but this interchange between himself and Anne Widdecombe – formerly Conservative MP for Maidstone and a passionate advocate of the Catholic Church is too good to miss. It’s part of a now iconic clash of Titans – ‘the Intelligence Squared Debate‘. Here’s an abridged link...
I’m reminded of Dante’s “Inferno” where the ninth and final circle of hell is reserved for the treacherous. Together with Judas in this region of hell are others who, by betraying their masters or benefactors, committed crimes with great historical and societal consequences. Completely encased in ice – like “straw in glass” – the shades are locked in various antagonistic postures with no mobility or sound and, it would appear, can only gnaw and gibber wordlessly at each other. Dante’s use of irony is never used better. The greatest punishment would seem to be the inability to express an opinion. Stephen expresses his with considerable deftness here. Again, worth a look, repetition notwithstanding. Anne Widdecombe’s strangled tones and unfortunate physiognomy were a source of great material for the satirists of the ’90’s. Fry and Laurie were the archetypal comedy duo of the late ’80’s before the angrier and (in my opinion) less talented Rik Mayall and Ben Elton seized the mantle. As a matter of interest, I saw Fry in his final appearance in “Cell Mates” with Mayall before he disappeared with a nervous breakdown and the show closed because nobody could find him. Is it he, or I that reminds you of Quasimodo? Don’t respond, but if you must, do so with charity.