Upcoming: HEROES by Stephen Fry (Penguin)

FryS-HeroesUKHCMythology was a big part of my childhood: Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Norse… I loved it all. I remember we had a particular hardcover book of mythology, heavily illustrated that covered the first three. I read that book over and over again, poring over the details and adventures of the heroes, villains and gods. I loved it, and is most likely the root of my interest in fantasy fiction. (I cannot for the life of me remember what the book was called, though, nor who published it. I’ve been trying to remember for years, but the details escape me completely.)*

I am also a big fan of Stephen Fry‘s work — his comedy, films and also his memoirs (strangely, I haven’t read any of his novels, yet). I bought his critically-acclaimed Mythos a little while ago. Like so many of the books I buy, I have yet to get around to reading it — but it is rapidly climbing my TBR mountain. Penguin recently announced Fry’s upcoming, companion book, Heroes, which I think it also sounds great. (I think the cover was officially unveiled today.) Here’s the synopsis:

There are Heroes — and then there are Greek Heroes.

Few mere mortals have ever embarked on such bold and heart-stirring adventures, overcome myriad monstrous perils, or outwitted scheming vengeful gods, quite as stylishly and triumphantly as Greek heroes.

In this companion to his bestselling Mythos, Stephen Fry brilliantly retells these dramatic, funny, tragic and timeless tales. Join Jason aboard the Argo as he quests for the Golden Fleece. See Atalanta — who was raised by bears — outrun any man before being tricked with golden apples. Witness wily Oedipus solve the riddle of the Sphinx and discover how Bellerophon captures the winged horse Pegasus to help him slay the monster Chimera.

Filled with white-knuckle chases and battles, impossible puzzles and riddles, acts of base cowardice and real bravery, not to mention murders and selfless sacrifices, Heroes is the story of what we mortals are truly capable of — at our worst and our very best.

Really looking forward to reading this. Heroes is due to be published by Penguin in the UK, on November 1st, 2018.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

* If you think you might know which book I’m referring to, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments. I really want to find this book!

 

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New Books (July-August)

NewBooks-20180804

Featuring: Megan Abbott, Cristina Alger, Guy Bolton, Mike Chen, Myke Cole, Delilah S. Dawson, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael Downing, Jasmin B. Frelih, John French, Stephen Fry, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Patrick Hasburgh, Sam Hawken, Kevin Hearne, Grady Hendrix, Michiko Kakutani, Gary Kemble, Derek Künsken, Avis Lang, Ian Nathan, Malka Older, George Pelecanos, Melissa Rivero, Justina Robson, Michael Rutger, Brandon Sanderson, Gary Shteyngart, Matt Strandberg, Tricia Sullivan, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Sharlene Teo, G.B. Trudeau, K.B. Wagers, Corey J. White, Rio Youers,

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Audiobook Review Round-Up

Four recent audiobooks I listened to, provided for review by Audible UK…

SheenEstevez-AlongTheWayEmilio Estevez & Martin Sheen, ALONG THE WAY: THE JOURNEY OF A FATHER AND SON (Simon & Schuster)

In this remarkable dual memoir, film legend Martin Sheen and accomplished actor/filmmaker Emilio Estevez recount their lives as father and son. In alternating chapters-and in voices that are as eloquent as they are different-they narrate stories spanning more than 50 years of family history, and reflect on their journeys into two different kinds of faith.

At 21, still a struggling actor living hand to mouth, Martin and his wife, Janet, welcomed their firstborn, Emilio, an experience of profound joy for the young couple, who soon had three more children: Ramon, Charlie, and Rene. As Martin’s career moved from stage to screen, the family moved from New York City to Malibu, while traveling together to film locations around the world, from Mexico for Catch-22 to Colorado for Badlands to the Philippines for the legendary Apocalypse Now shoot.

As the firstborn, Emilio had a special relationship with Martin: They often mirrored each other’s passions and sometimes clashed in their differences. After Martin and Emilio traveled together to India for the movie Gandhi, each felt the beginnings of a spiritual awakening that soon led Martin back to his Catholic roots, and eventually led both men to Spain, from where Martin’s father had emigrated to the United States.

Along the famed Camino de Santiago pilgrimage path, Emilio directed Martin in their acclaimed film, The Way, bringing three generations of Estevez men together in the region of Spain where Martin’s father was born, and near where Emilio’s own son had moved to marry and live.

With vivid, behind-the-scenes anecdotes of this multitalented father’s and son’s work with other notable actors and directors, Along the Way is a striking, stirring, funny story-a family saga that listeners will recognize as universal in its rebellions and regrets, aspirations and triumphs. Strikingly candid, searchingly honest, and full of the immediacy and warmth that can only be added by the authors reading their story in their own voices, this heartfelt portrait reveals two strong-minded, admirable men of many important roles, perhaps the greatest of which are as father and son.

This is a pretty interesting idea, as biographies go. Martin Sheen is also President Bartlet in The West Wing, so it was difficult to listen to his chapters and not feel like they were in some way a presidential pronouncement… After listening to this book, I realised that I’ve seen far less of both Sheen’s and Estevez’s movies than I originally thought. We get great accounts of the making of The Way (Estevez’s movie starring Sheen), and also Apocalypse Now – the movie that almost killed Sheen, and gave Estevez and Charlie Sheen quite the exciting and unusual experiences. There are a fair number of chapters that cover shared experiences, but also plenty that give us better insight into Martin’s upbringing and also Emilio’s solo projects. If you are interested in the work of either of them, then I highly recommend Along the Way. The audiobook is excellent, too, with great production.

*

FryS-MoabIsMyWashpotStephen Fry, MOAB IS MY WASHPOT (Penguin)

a) A fatuous, wasted, degenerate and wholly useless existence captured in delicate, lyrical and exquisitely realised prose.

b) Lightly amusing anecdotes and tender reminiscences of the great men and women encountered during a rich, varied and rewarding lifetime, fondly remembered in the tranquil evening of a career of public service.

c) The autobiography of a dizzying life fuelled by the lust for power and the search for ever more degrading downward paths of repulsive sexual adventuring and self-destructive debaucheries: the unrepentant libertine author seeks revenge on his many enemies and tears the lid off the private life of blameless churchmen and librarians.

Fry`s autobiography is all and none of these. Too old to rock and roll, too young to die, the author looks back with bruising frankness at his life so far.

I finally got around to listening to Fry’s first biography – I really enjoyed The Fry Chronicles (which started me on my recent audio-biography binging road) and More Fool Me. This one focuses exclusively on his childhood, with the occasional mention of his work and colleagues/friends to come. It’s funny, honest, doesn’t sugar-coat his weaknesses and bad behaviour. He offers plenty of opinions on society, literature, schooling, Britain and so forth. Moab is My Washpot is a good listen, but I think the two follow up volumes are far superior.

*

MartinS-BornStandingUpSteve Martin, BORN STANDING UP: A COMIC’S LIFE (Simon & Schuster)

In the mid-70s, Steve Martin exploded onto the comedy scene. By 1978 he was the biggest concert draw in the history of stand-up. In 1981 he quit forever. Born Standing Up is, in his own words, the story of “why I did stand-up and why I walked away”.

At age 10 Martin started his career at Disneyland, selling guidebooks in the newly opened theme park. In the decade that followed, he worked in the Disney magic shop and the Bird Cage Theatre at Knott’s Berry Farm, performing his first magic/comedy act a dozen times a week. The story of these years, during which he practiced and honed his craft, is moving and revelatory.

Martin illuminates the sacrifice, discipline, and originality that made him an icon and informs his work to this day. To be this good, to perform so frequently, was isolating and lonely. It took Martin decades to reconnect with his parents and sister, and he tells that story with great tenderness. Martin also paints a portrait of his times: the era of free love and protests against the war in Vietnam, the heady irreverence of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late 60s, and the transformative new voice of Saturday Night Live in the 70s.

I didn’t know what to expect from Born Standing Up. This covers the part of Martin’s career that I am utterly unfamiliar with. There are mentions of some of his later (but still early-ish) movies and television work, but this book covers Martin’s introduction to show-business, stand-up comedy and eventually television. It’s an interesting introduction to his work, his opinions on comedy and “where he came from”. I hope

*

MillerA-TheYearOfReadingDangerouslyUKAndrew Miller THE YEAR OF READING DANGEROUSLY: HOW FIFTY GREAT BOOKS SAVED MY LIFE (Fourth Estate)

An editor and writer’s vivaciously entertaining, and often moving, memoir – a true story that reminds us why we should all make time in our lives for books.

Nearing his fortieth birthday, author and critic Andy Miller realized he’s not nearly as well read as he’d like to be. A devout book lover who somehow fell out of the habit of reading, he began to ponder the power of books to change an individual life-including his own-and to define the sort of person he would like to be. Beginning with a copy of Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita that he happens to find one day in a bookstore, he embarks on a literary odyssey of mindful reading and wry introspection. From Middlemarch to Anna Karenina to A Confederacy of Dunces, these are books Miller felt he should read; books he’d always wanted to read; books he’d previously started but hadn’t finished; and books he’d lied about having read to impress people.

Combining memoir and literary criticism, The Year of Reading Dangerously is Miller’s heartfelt, humorous, and honest examination of what it means to be a reader. Passionately believing that books deserve to be read, enjoyed, and debated in the real world, Miller documents his reading experiences and how they resonated in his daily life and ultimately his very sense of self. The result is a witty and insightful journey of discovery and soul-searching that celebrates the abiding miracle of the book and the power of reading.

I received an eARC of this quite some time ago, but for some reason never got around to reading it. Then I had the chance to get it as an audiobook, and I thought it would be a good listen. I was… half right. The Year of Reading Dangerously is a most uneven book. It doesn’t start well, and I almost didn’t stick with it – sad to say, it was a bland beginning. Nevertheless, I stuck with it, and came to rather enjoy much of what Miller had to say on publishing, fiction and writing. He offers some great insight into the publishing and bookselling industry, and his sharp and sometimes acerbic observations were welcome and amusing. When talking about the books he’s selected to read for this project, however, I found the book a bit dull. Which is probably not what he was hoping for – these classic of literature, and he was not able to make me even remotely interested in what he had to say about them. So, a good book, but not great. Half interesting, half… meh.

*

Audio Review: MORE FOOL ME by Stephen Fry (Audible)

FryS-MoreFoolMeA third excellent memoir from Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry invites readers to take a glimpse at his life story in the unputdownable More Fool Me.

It is a heady tale of the late Eighties and early Nineties, in which Stephen – ever more driven to create, perform and entertain – burned bright and partied hard with a host of famous and infamous friends, regardless of the consequences.

This electric and extraordinary book reveals a new side to Mr. Fry.

Stephen Fry is an award-winning comedian, actor, presenter and director. He rose to fame alongside Hugh Laurie in A Bit of Fry and Laurie (which he co-wrote with Laurie) and Jeeves and Wooster, and was unforgettable as Captain Melchett in Blackadder. He also presented Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, his groundbreaking documentary on bipolar disorder, to huge critical acclaim. His legions of fans tune in to watch him host the popular quiz show QI each week.

I listened to the Audible edition of this biography. And, much like The Fry Chronicles, it is both entertaining and excellently produced. Fry’s performance is, as can be expected, superb – welcoming, honest, and rather whimsical. This is another excellent memoir, and superb audiobook. Continue reading

“The Fry Chronicles” by Stephen Fry (Audible / Penguin)

FryS-FryChroniclesAUDA superb memoir and audiobook, from one of Britain’s greatest comics

Thirteen years ago, Moab Is My Washpot, Stephen Fry’s autobiography of his early years, was published to rave reviews and was a huge best seller. In the years since, Stephen Fry has moved into a completely new stratosphere, both as a public figure, and a private man. Now he is not just a multi-award-winning comedian and actor, but also an author, director, and presenter.

In January 2010 he was awarded the Special Recognition Award at the National Television Awards. Much loved by the public and his peers, Stephen Fry is one of the most influential cultural forces in the country. This dazzling memoir promises to be a courageously frank, honest and poignant read. It will detail some of the most turbulent and least-well-known years of his life, with writing that will excite you, make you laugh uproariously, move you, inform you, and, above all, surprise you.

I am a big fan of Stephen Fry. Ever since I watched Jeeves & Wooster and Blackadder when I was younger (both get frequent re-watches), and right up to my current bingeing on past and recent episodes of QI, I have enjoyed pretty much everything of his that I’ve seen or read. I am, however, pretty new to audiobooks. After a couple of interesting experiments with memoirs and fiction in audio, I decided to try some comedy memoirs. Picking this as my first was really a no-brainer. And I’m very glad I did – this is a brilliant memoir and audiobook.

This really is a superb book, and the production is excellent. Fry’s narration is superb, invested with his mannerisms, self-deprecation, amusement, and humour throughout. It’s a very welcoming audiobook, peppered with Fry’s observations, anecdotes, and plenty of asides. He covers his life up to the mid-2000s, discussing his time in prison in his youth, to his reformatory period (teaching at a school, being accepted into Cambridge) and then going on to become a successful writer and actor. Fry is quite self-deprecating and self-critical, but in his hands the subject, emotion and tone never descends into mawkishness or teenage-angst – it’s an honest, funny account.

FryS-FryChroniclesI’ve been trying to figure out which were my favourite chapters and subjects, and yet I can’t select any single one without then thinking of another equally good bit. Really, The Fry Chronicles was never dull – not for a single moment, pretty much. I had intended to listen to this only when I was at the gym (where I can’t stand the radio, nor just plodding along with nothing but the depressing clicking-over of distance, calories burned, and timer to read…). But, about two hours into this audiobook, I found myself listening to it when walking anywhere. Indeed, the fact that I enjoyed this so much has got me listening to a number of comic memoirs (currently, Jennifer Saunders’s Bonkers).

If, like me, you were brought up on Jeeves & Wooster, Blackadder, A Bit of Fry & Laurie, then this is a must-read. The appearances and comments about other beloved British comics and actors are great – including Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Ben Elton and many, many more.

Very highly recommended indeed.

Craig Ferguson Interviews Stephen Fry (back in 2010). It was Really Interesting…

I’m going to share this video without any commentary, save that it was really interesting, and I like them both as actors, comedians, and interview subjects. They spend a fair amount talking about depression, manic depression, alcoholism. And internet trolling. It’s something they both know a fair bit about. It’s a frank conversation. Really good. Enjoy.