Paperweight - Stephen Fry (1992)

Stephen Fry may be most familiar to American audiences as Jeeves in the recent Jeeves and Wooster series (also featuring Hugh Laurie, now famous from and as House) or his many appearances on various Britcoms, notably Blackadder, but he is also a writer of no little skill. This book is a collection of essays originally written for newspapers or periodicals and transcripts of short pieces aired on BBC radio. Fry himself describes the collection "a kind of literary guacamole into which the reader may from time to time wish to dip the tortilla chip of his curiosity." While admirably phrased, I suggest the book is more like a box of assorted, unlabeled chocolates where one may find an orange cream of delightful whimsy or a firm caramel of social commentary both wrapped in a smooth chocolate coating of persiflage. Sometimes however, beneath that some coating one finds the disgusting nutty-nougaty stuff of a "clunker" or the stale, unidentifiable goo of an overstretched metaphor.

Having said that, the bits that are good are very good indeed, and outnumber the poor bits by a huge margin. There are a few turns of phrase that are positively brilliant, and the short play Latin! or Tobacco and Boys is an obscene riot. The essays are all short, which does reward the sort of intermittent reading-style Fry himself suggests. I find that I prefer his novels, but the jewels in this collection are well worth the overall unevenness.

Overall Grade: B

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