For some time now, writer, comedian, actor, host and general word-smith Stephen Fry has operated two Twitter accounts, one for himself and one for “Mrs Stephen Fry”, an alter-ego of sorts and a good excuse for him to make all sorts of funny and sometimes vulgar puns. Around the time he released his second memoir, The Fry Chronicles, she released her first book, Mrs Fry’s Diaries.
In her second book, How To Have An Almost Perfect Marriage, she provides her advice on having a successful marriage, interspersed with tales from her (apparent) relationship with Stephen, as well as raising their five, six or seven children (they never seem quite sure). The book covers everything from first dates to divorce, including the wedding day, the way to a man’s or woman’s heart, home keeping, having children, coping with festive seasons and extended families, and how to deal with various problems that may come up, and all of the advice is so utterly ridiculous you cannot help but laugh out loud and keep reading on.
A lot of the advice is actually just thinly veiled attempts at slagging off both men and, more particularly, Stephen himself, which is almost odd to read when we know it really is Stephen writing it. However, I suspect he enjoys inventing this false mythology of sorts about himself, as his wife (who is occasionally referred to as Edna) reveals his supposed lazy drunkard ways, and she refuses to believe all this fame and acting nonsense of his, insisting that she is the only one with any sort of fame in the relationship.
If I have any criticisms of this book, it might be that the humour starts to become very repetitive after a while, and I found I couldn’t read the whole thing in one sitting (despite being less than 200 pages) because I think I would’ve become bored or possible even infuriated with it. But if you break the reading into chunks, perhaps a couple of chapters at a time, it should remain fresh and funny.
One last thing that is interesting with this book is the way in which it was published. Through the Unbound website, potential readers were asked to pledge their support by funding the book themselves before it was even written, with the promise of receiving the book once it was published, and their name written in the back alongside everybody else who supported it. It’s a clever idea, and is very similar to how Ben Folds Five chose to fund their album that they released last year, too, so it’s clearly a concept that is catching on. I like it because it gives consumers more of a say in getting these things published and released, and it allows authors to write the books they really want to write, knowing full well they have the support of the public already.
To finish off, here’s a short extract from the book – the start of a chapter titled “Between The Sheets”:
As a married couple, there is one subject it’s very important to discuss openly and frankly, and that’s the subject of ‘you-know-what’.
Without you-know-what, you and I wouldn’t exist – it’s fundamental to life and, so I’m led to believe, pleasure. You-know-what is everywhere – on billboards, on television, on the sides of buses. There are you-know-what magazines and you-know-what shops on the high street, even you-know-what-on-the-beach cocktails. As the advertising industry so succinctly puts it, ‘You-know-what sells.’
And yet it’s still important, in this age of permissiveness and Hollyoaks, to remember the real purpose of you-know-what. No, dears, not procreation – that’s merely an unfortunate side-effect. The real purpose is to annoy your neighbours. Without that, it’s meaningless. Why else would a couple bounce up and down, grunting and howling like a pair of rabid baboons (or in our case, one rabid baboon and his reluctant handler)?
If this made you laugh at all, there’s a very good chance you would enjoy this book. I know I certainly got a good few laughs out of it!
Has anybody else read this, and if so, what were your thoughts? If not, do you think you would read it?