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Moab Is My Washpot

Stephen Fry

Average Review Rating Average Rating 10/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Soho Press

Published : 1999

Copyright : Stephen Fry 1999

ISBN-10 : PB 1-56947-202-5
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-56947-2026

Publisher's Write-Up

Most people are familiar with Stephen's talents as a writer and actor. What few people know is the private Fry, the man behind the public face. His autobiography is incredibly frank - and frankly incredible.

As well as being the bestselling author of four novels, The Stars' Tennis Balls, Making History, The Hippopotamus, and The Liar, and the first volume of his autobiography, Moab is My Washpot, Fry has played Peter in Peter's Friends, Wilde in the film Wilde, Jeeves in the television series Jeeves & Wooster and (a closely guarded show-business secret, this) Laurie in the television series Fry & Laurie.

'Stephen Fry is one of the great originals... This autobiography of his first twenty years is a pleasure to read, mixing outrageous acts with sensible opinions in bewildering confusion... That so much outward charm, self-awareness and intellect should exist alongside behaviour that threatened to ruin the lives of innocent victims, noble parents and Fry himself, gives the book a tragic grandeur and lifts it to classic status.'

Financial Times

' remarkable, perhaps even unique, exercise in autobiography... that aroma of authenticity that is the point of all great autobiographies; of which this, I rather think, is one.'

Evening Standard

''He writes superbly about his family, about his homosexuality, about the agonies of childhood... some of his bursts of simile take the breath away... his most satisfying and appealing book so far.'



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Reader Reviews

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Review by Nadine (301205) Rating (10/10) Star Book

Review by Nadine
Rating 10/10
If I could pick any famous person, living or dead, to have lunch with, my celebrity of choice would be Stephen Fry. I've always thought so - ever since he boomed onto my TV screen as General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett, when I was about thirteen. Over the last two days I have been privileged to spend lunch, dinner, breakfast and an afternoon glass of pop and a Creme Egg in his company. The experience proved to me what I have suspected for a long time - the man is a national treasure.

To say that Stephen Fry has a way with words is like saying that Delia Smith makes a nice jam tart. 'Eloquent' just doesn't seem to cover it. He can arrange the simplest of words into the most startlingly evocative combinations. Profanities come out sounding like Shakespeare, and there are even a few words that I am pretty sure he invented himself. "Ensnogglement" is my personal favourite.

The book covers the story of Fry's childhood and adolescence as the middle child of a respectfully well-to-do family, and is largely concerned with his years at boarding school. He pours out his memories - the happy, the sad, the shameful and the painful - with astonishing honesty and generosity. Life-shaping experiences are recounted with wit and affection, interspersed with charming anecdotes that had me chuckling with delight.

The more disreputable events in his early life are related with absolute candour. He paints a picture of a wilful, disobedient, mouthy child with a penchant for petty thievery, but I couldn't help giggling at his escapades and thinking, 'little scamp!' His later more serious exploits, including an ill-fated episode of credit card fraud, are described with a resigned, less frivolous air. However I still can't say I was horrified. Fry makes it clear, without gushing, that he regrets that unfortunate phase of his life. He doesn't ask for pity, but the unhappiness he describes feeling during that time, and the embarrassment it has caused him, make it impossible not to respond with sympathy. I warmed to him more than ever.

This is only the second autobiography I have ever read. The first one placed a lot of emphasis on the author's success, which I found depressingly smug. If anything Moab Is My Washpot is the opposite. Perhaps it's because the period covered pre-dates the author's professional life and fame, but I get the impression that it's because Stephen Fry just doesn't 'do' smug. The humour is self-deprecating, and he gives the impression of viewing his past self with exasperation. The only hints of self-satisfaction are in describing the moments of joy that came from making someone else laugh, or from the small acts of wit or daring that gained him acceptance among his peers. I'd say that's forgivable, at the very least.

This is as good a point as any to insert the obligatory quote. It isn't my favourite bit - if I had to pick my favourite bit I'd be here for a week trying to decide. I might as well just quote the whole book and dispense with the review altogether. But this is one part relating to Fry's lamentable lack of musical talent, that caused me to emit a sudden, thunderous, coca-cola-up-my-nose bellow of mirth:

'I have to mime at parties when everyone sings “Happy Birthday.” ... mime or mumble and rumble and growl and grunt so deep that only moles, manta rays and mushrooms can hear me.'

I wish I could go on and provide quotes to represent his frustration at not being able to swim, his relationship with his parents, the first time he fell in love, his hatred of P.E. lessons, coming to terms with his sexuality, struggling to understand maths, coping with prison... but like I said: I'd be here all week.

The verbal mastery of this book was certainly an education, and to be honest I feel under-qualified to give marks out of ten. However, I've read a few books in my time and I like to think that I can spot a corker. In my humble opinion, I would like to offer a resounding and reverential ten out of ten.
Nadine (30th December 2005)

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