Two famous writers. Two Stephens. Two biographies. Compare and Contrast…two C Words, Fry’s Chronicles is full of C Words, like Comedy and Cocaine and Cigarettes and College, but not the C Word except when quoting Miriam Margolyes.
The Stephen King biography is unauthorised but well researched by Lisa Rogak, it leaves gaps as to how King feels about certain issues. A CBS crew, for example, discovered what happened to King’s absentee father, the biography states King had “mixed feelings” about the news but it would have been interesting to know more. King has written the semi-autobiographical book “On Writing” but that book just deals with one aspect of his persona.
Fry’s Chronicles are autobiographical, gossipy and confessional.
Both are writers I admire, I knew of King from 1980, when I was fifteen and an avid reader of science fiction, horror and fantasy. I’m not sure which of King’s books I read first, it could have been “Carrie” or “The Shining”, I’ve read a lot of King but reading the biography of this prolific author I realise there is so much I haven’t read, my favourite is “The Long Walk“, which has many similarities to “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
Stephen Fry, I first became aware of as an actor in the second series of Blackadder, aired in 1986, where he played the sycophantic Lord Melchett fawning over the Queen. I warmed to Fry as the genial host of QI with his seemingly Wikipedia-like knowledge.
Neither Fry nor King look too happy on the covers of the books. The King biography is black, befitting a master of horror. The Fry book is white for a man more associated with comedy.
Both men have their demons to fight and have battled cocaine and cigarette addiction.
Fry is from a privileged British background of public (fee paying) schools, King is from a very poor American working class background, but surprisingly it was Fry who did jail time of the two (for credit card fraud). Both very early in their careers realised the money their success generated meant they didn’t have to work again, but they continue to do so. Writing is like a drug for Stephen King, he is a driven man. Fry’s book begins with a quote from Noel Coward:
Work is more fun than fun.
I started reading The Haunted Heart first but left it when I visited England, where I came across The Fry Chronicles at a Boot Sale. It hadn’t been my intention to compare the two, I generally read and review one book at a time. It just seemed to gel in my mind to compare two highly successful Stephens, as I was reading the two around the same time.
King is not just a horror writer, he has explored other literary genres, he wrote the story for “Shawshank Redemption“.
Oh no he didn’t!
Oh, yes he did.
King’s writing work rate might be comparable to Ben Elton’s, whose writing capacity astounds Stephen Fry.
For every one page of uncertain and unfinished sketch comedy that we (Fry and Laurie) held apologetically up for judgement. Ben produced fifty.
Fry on writing:
Well, although it is true that one feels fantastic when one has finished a writing task, it is mostly horrible while one is doing it.
King is ten years older than Fry (born 1947 and 1957 respectively) but Fry often played older characters. Both live in the country away from the big metropolises, King in Maine and Fry in Norfolk. Both like cars, Fry has had a succession of British Classic Cars, Austins and Astons and Daimlers, while King has immortalised the Plymouth Fury in Christine and also wrote a book “From a Buick 8“.
Fry’s autobiography follows on from “Moab is my Washpot”, about his schooldays. The Chronicles looks at the period 1979-1987, Fry’s university years and early career as a comic and writer. The King biography covers his work and life up to the publication date (2008). I like Fry’s autobiographical writing but I was less impressed with the one novel of his I read “The Hippopotamus“. I think it is better to experience comedy live, where the laughter of the rest of the audience is contagious. LOL is probably the biggest lie online, not many of us laugh out loud in front of a computer screen, do we? Laughter is usually more social.
I have enjoyed reading both these books and would rate each 4 out of 5.