The Fry Chronicles (Memoir #2)

A university is not, thank heavens, a place for vocational instruction, it has nothing to do with training for a working life and career, it is a place for education, something quite different.

Between funny and witty
Falls the shadow

But just as we can all agree on what is red, even if we will never know if we each see it in the same way, so we can all agree - can’t we? - that no matter how confident we may appear to others, inside we are all sobbing, scared and uncertain for much of the time. Or perhaps it’s just me.

Oh God, perhaps it really is just me.

Actually it doesn’t really matter, when you come to think of it. If it is just me, then you are reading the story of some weird freak. You are free to treat this book like science fiction, fantasy or exotic travel literature. Are there really men like Stephen Fry on this planet? Goodness, how alien some people are. And if I am not alone, then neither are you, and hand in hand we can marvel together at the strangeness of the human condition.

Enthusiats are used to being mocked, maligned and misunderstood. We don't really mind.

Entirely in accordance with what education is supposed to be. Education is the sum of what students teach each other in between lectures and seminars. You sit in each other's rooms and drink coffee - I suppose it would be vodka and Red Bull now - you share enthusiasms, you talk a lot of wank about politics, religion, art and the cosmos and then you go to bed, alone or together according to taste. I mean, how else do you learn anything, how else do you take your mind for a walk?

If a thing can be said in ten words, I may be relied upon to take a hundred to say it. I ought to apologize for that. I ought to prune, pare and extirpate excess growth, but I will not. I like words—strike that, I love words—and while I am fond of the condensed and economical use of them in poetry, in song lyrics, in Twitter, in good journalism and smart advertising, I love the luxuriant profusion and mad scatter of them too.

If I had been psychopathic enough to feel no remorse or religious enough to believe in redemption through a divine outside agency, perhaps I should have been happier; as it was I had neither the consolation that I was free of guilt, nor the conviction that I could ever be forgiven.

I found it all about as arousing as a Tupperware party.

I never quite got the hang of the getting drunk & fondling the thighs [of all the cumbersome young males] business... whether that makes me a gallant & proper gentleman, a cowardly wuss or an unadventurous prude, I cannot make out

I really do believe that there are those who would like and trust me better if they saw me weeping into a whisky, making a fool of myself, getting aggressive, maudlin and drunkenly out of control. I have never found those states in others anything other than tiring, awkward, embarrassing and fantastically dull, but I am quite sure that people would cherish a view of me in that condition at least once in a while.

It does not suit the world to hear that people who are leading a high life, an enviable life, a privileged life are as miserable most days as anybody else, despite the fact that it must be obvious they would be - given that we are all agreed that money and fame do not bring happiness. Instead the world would prefer to enjoy the idea, against what it knows to be true, that wealth and fame do in fact insulate and protect against misery and it would rather we shut up if we are planning to indicate otherwise.

It is possible to be a fan of reality TV, talent shows and bubblegum pop and still have a brain. You will also see that a great many people know perfectly well how silly and camp and trivial their fandom is. They do not check in their minds when they enter a fan site. Judgement is not necessarily fled to brutish beasts, and men have not quite lost their reason. Which is all a way of questioning whether pop-culture hero worship is really so psychically damaging, so erosive of cognitive faculties, so corrupting of the soul of mankind as we are so often told.

It was behaviour that I thought not far from racism, sexism or any other kind of prejudice or snobbery. 'Because you are not cute, I do not want to know you' was, to me, hardly different from suggesting 'because you are gay, I dislike you

I was at a dinner party many years ago,sitting along from Tom Stoppard, who in those days smoked not just between courses,but between mouthfuls. An American woman watched in disbelief.

"And you so intelligent!"
"Excuse me?" said tom
"Knowing those things are going to kill you" she said "and still you do it."
"How differently I might behave" Tom said, "if immortality were an option

I will defend the absolute value of Mozart over Miley Cyrus, of course I will, but we should be wary of false dichotomies. You do not have to choose between one or the other. You can have both. The human cultural jungle should be as varied and plural as the Amazonian rainforest. We are all richer for biodiversity. We may decide that a puma is worth more to us than a caterpillar, but surely we can agree that the habitat is all the better for being able to sustain each.

Knowing those things are going to kill you," she said, "and still you do it."
"How differently I might behave," Tom said, "if immortality were an option.

lectures broke into one's day and were clearly a terrible waste of time, necessary no doubt if you were reading law or medicine or some other vocational subject, but in the case of English, the natural thing to do was talk a lot, listen to music, drink coffee and wine, read books, and go to plays, perhaps be in plays…

My real dissatisfaction is with my dissatisfaction. How dare I be so discontent? How dare I? Or being discontent why cannot I shut up about it?

One of the most unattractive human traits, and so easy to fall into, is resentment at the sudden shared popularity of a previously private pleasure. Which of us hasn't been annoyed when a band, writer, artist or television series that had been a minority interest of ours has suddenly achieved mainstream popularity? When it was at a cult level we moaned at the philistinism of a world that didn't appreciate it, and now that they do appreciate it we're all resentful and dog-in-the-manger about it.

The girl who played Gwendolen stood out like a good deed in a naughty world.

The only reason people do not know much is because they do not care to know. They are incurious. Incuriousity is the oddest and most foolish failing there is.

There are young men and women up and down the land who happily (or unhappily) tell anyone who will listen that they don’t have an academic turn of mind, or that they aren’t lucky enough to have been blessed with a good memory, and yet can recite hundreds of pop lyrics and reel off any amount of information about footballers. Why? Because they are interested in those things. They are curious. If you are hungry for food, you are prepared to hunt high and low for it. If you are hungry for information it is the same. Information is all around us, now more than ever before in human history. You barely have to stir or incommode yourself to find things out. The only reason people do not know much is because they do not care to know. They are incurious. Incuriosity is the oddest and most foolish failing there is.

there is no reason why anyone should understand how it works… and of course no reason why anyone should care … unless you are curious, in which case I love you, for curiosity about the world and all its corners is a beautiful thing.

Those who rule the world get so little opportunity to run about and laugh and play in it.

Thos who rule the world get so little opportunity to run about and laugh and play in it.

Wanting to be liked is often a very unlikeable characteristic.

We humans are naturally disposed to worship gods and heroes, to build our pantheons and valhallas. I would rather see that impulse directed into the adoration of daft singers, thicko footballers and air-headed screen actors than into the veneration of dogmatic zealots, fanatical preachers, militant politicians and rabid cultural commentators.

When the evening was over Alistair Cooke shook my hand goodbye and held it firmly, saying, 'This hand you are shaking once shook the hand of Bertrand Russell.'
'Wow!' I said, duly impressed.
'No, No,' said Cooke, 'It goes further than that. Bertrand Russell knew Robert Browning. Bertrand Russell's aunt danced with Napoleon. That's how close we all are to history. Just a few handshakes away. Never forget that.

Wine can be a better teacher than ink, and banter is often better than books

You should give up.'
'Why?'
'For one thing, you'll live longer.'
'Oh, you don't live longer. It just seems longer.