I haven’t digested the book yet, but I already feel the need to share my thoughts. The strongest feeling so far: the book makes me dizzy, not in a good way, but it’s what we, software testers, call “intended behaviour”. It’s intended behaviour of good books: they make you feel like the character (or, in the case of an autobiography, the author) felt.
First of all: I’m rather tolerant about drugs, by which I mean that I don’t have an opinion on legalisation/further criminalisation of heavy drugs (as for stuff like weed, I’m certainly pro, but not for Russia where I live, we need a lot of time and changes so that legalisation and criminalisation stop looking too alike) and honestly don’t understand why a drug addict who robbed an ambulance is worse than an alcoholic who burglarised a shop to get himself a bottle. One’s addiction breaks laws, other’s doesn’t? “Yeah, right. Ha fucking ha.” (c) Alcohol isn’t legal for all, remember, and there were times and places when and where it wasn’t legal at all. That’s on one hand. On the other hand, physical and psychological addictions deforming and mutilating personality scare shit out of me, for many reasons, one of them that nobody really knows how to treat them and they surely require serious treatment. Stephen’s book is not a typical “life story of a coke user”, he clearly states why: there’s an enormous difference between “clean”, expensive drugs and stuff sold in the streets, mixed with god knows what. Like elite and counterfeit vodka. At the same time the book feels so real and so true it sometimes gives you chills.
According to Stephen, he didn’t want to either make fun of the whole thing or sound too dramatic, and I believe he managed to do exactly what he wanted. The tone is light, sometimes hilarious, but there is a constant serious note that sounds loud and clear through Stephen’s trademark humour and masterful self-irony. It goes through every moment related to his drug addiction and is punctuated by short and, to put it mildly, convincing sentences on what a nightmare it actually was. He makes you feel it, he makes you feel what a coke addict turns his life into. Side effects of the drug use are mentioned more than once and, to put it mildly again, they don’t make you wish you could try the “magic” powder.
As the book is dedicated to the time when Stephen’s early career was in full bloom, there’s a lot of name-dropping and, as Stephen prefers to call it, gossip. But there’s a big difference between Fry’s gossip and real gossip: Stephen has never hurt, insulted, outed or put ANYONE in an incomfortable position. Except himself. He can tell a rib-destroyingly funny story about Prince of Wales, and I’m sure that it will only make Prince of Wales cry with laughter - same goes for all those involved in this story.
Biographies, and especially showbiz biographies, have a vomit-inducing feature: most authors suddenly gain incredible “inner strength” and “bravery of spirit” when they decide to tell “truth” about others. Tears in their eyes and voices, authors tell shameful, insulting and of course unverifiable “truth” about bad habits, breakdowns, adulteries and general embarrassment of their long dead friends who, by obvious reasons, can neither say a word to defend themselves nor punch authors so hard they go search for their teeth across the street. Stephen does these things only about himself, without taking pseudo-heroic stances, and this is especially admirable, going together with his tact about others. This is the case when the book is good enough to reflect not the author, but the reader. Calling Stephen out for “glamourising coke”? Seriously? His efforts to anti glamourise it aren’t enough? I have bad news for you: coke is ALREADY so glamour in your head you probably need a doctor. Screeching that he was “boasting” about taking coke in Buckingham Palace? So much for the difference between boasting and being clearly ashamed - would YOU, after taking coke at the monarch residence, boast about it for the rest of your life? Perhaps YOU would. But this man isn’t you.
During his live events Stephen repeated several times that he knew what he was doing and how many people would throw stones at him. I hope he feels well and hysterical screeching and pseudo-moral seizures don’t get to him, so far he has been holding gracefully despite open nastiness towards him. I’m sure that More Fool Me will have a long lasting and very positive effect on people. Even on those who will need quite a lot of time to come to terms with it.