M.A.S.T.E.R.s – Stephen Fry

5 Apr

Mon dieu, what a busy time it’s been! Bet you forgot about me, didn’t you. Well, I haven’t forgotten about you, writhing hivemind. I’m back to lay my offering upon your altar and retreat, spine bent, eyes lowered respectfully and fearfully.

This week’s installment of M.A.S.T.E.R.s brings one of England’s most delightful national treasures a-galumphing across the pond, to sit us down under the shade of a beautiful willow and tell us about trolleys, and elephants, and candy, and a wide world of words we’ve never had the will to wonder. Ladies and gents, Mr. Stephen Fry!

Look, he's ticklish!

The first time I saw Stephen Fry was in V For Vendetta, in which he plays the affable-yet-melancholy talk show host Deitrich, who takes Natalie Portman’s Evey under his portly wing. It wasn’t until he appeared as a Star in the Reasonably-Priced Car on an episode of Top Gear, however, that I began to pay attention to Mr. Fry himself and his unimaginably numerous and endlessly admirable traits, experiences, and opinions.

Stephen Fry is, first and foremost, a writer. But he’s also an actor. And a director. And a London taxi driver. And a quiz show host. And a voiceover artist. And a football club director. He’s the voice of the Harry Potter audiobooks. He’s a successful playwright. He’s a gay rights advocate. He’s – in large part, anyway – why Twitter is so popular. He’s a self-professed gadget addict. He is, in his own words, “a lover of truth, a worshipper of freedom, a celebrant at the altar of language and purity and tolerance”.

He has a lyrical, gentle, velveteen voice and a knobbly, crooked nose. He wears brightly mismatching paisley with tweed. He is red of face and round of tummy. The man is impossibly lovable.

But it’s not just his Herculean prolificacy and winsome corporeal form that make his nappy bust a worthy addition to our Shelf of Heroes. Take the way he looks at the world: he’s one of those people who seems to have the right attitude about just about every facet of life, from his dismissal of archaic and useless conservatism to the way he lovingly embraces creativity and learning and wonder. He has said that he believes in the tasting “of every fruit of every tree in the garden at least once. It is an insult to creation not to experience it fully. Temperance is wickedness.”

I mean, man. These are some sensibly awesome philosophies. The man once admitted, “I get an urge, like a pregnant elephant, to go away and give birth to a book”. I can get down with that.

Can YOU rock that tie? Didn't think so.

And that brings me to the real reason I love Stephen Fry, and the reason I think he deserves to be slappin’ the bass in our Band of Champions. The man loves words. And I mean really loves them. You start talking language and truth and meaning, he gets all weak at the knee. He cut his teeth on Milton, Eliot, Lewis, and Chaucer, bound them all up like a ball of elastics, and bounces it with a childlike glee. His vocabulary is like a ’63 Aston Martin, sleek and silver and aquiline, which he is constantly adding to and modifying and polishing and thoroughly enjoying. But it’s exactly that quality – the joy with which he bends language to his will, and giggles at the mess that sometimes ensues – that is so deliciously commendable to me. As someone who hopes to do for the rest of his life even a fraction of what Mr. Fry does, I can think of no higher charge, no more noble task than that.

And you know what? I hope this post hasn’t made any sense. The wrecking ball is the first step to that shiny new library.

I’ll leave you with Mr. Fry himself, to proffer you a vol-au-vent of what I mean. If any of what I’ve told you here pricks up your intellectual ear, then do yourself a favour and visit his website, appropriately titled “The New Adventures of Mr. Stephen Fry”. See what he has to say about Apple products, or bubblegum, or The Beatles. Who knows? You might become a Fryaholic too.

And in my opinion, the world could use a few more of those.


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