Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Stephen Fry's Moab Is My Washpot

Moab is My Washpot lives up to the many superlative review quotes that grace its cover because it is scintillatingly written, grips you by the lapels in its need to be read, and charms and confounds- in other words it is an honest reflection of its polymath and quintessentially English author.

I’ve been meaning to read this book since it came out in 1997 and thought of it again recently, whilst studying a module at university on forms of biography and autobiography.

If you don’t know who Stephen Fry is which cliché have you been living on? Go here and find out more. I was going to attempt to briefly sum up his career but have now thought better of it. When it comes to Fry’s writing how can a review possibly begin to do justice to the way he writes?

The book is warm, witty, entertaining, honest, playful etc ad infinitum- you simply have to go and read it. Fry tosses off more clever and breathtakingly beautiful metaphors, analogies, and generally wondrous, lyrical writing in the course of 400-odd pages than, I am sure, some successful writers manage to squeeze out in an entire career:
“Sex without smiling is as sickly and base as vodka and tonic without ice.”

A few pages in I put the book down and took a moment over one such fine device and thought: “It’s not fair”, but as the story he so brutally and honestly tells of his early years, even when you seemingly have it all, it does not necessarily make for a happy existence:
“After one of those squealing, juddering, stomach-dropping false starts with which trains so tactlessly articulate human emotion...”

There were passages, where he resorts to quoting greek or some greek tragedy or other arcane intellectual thinking where he lost me but never for long and never completely. I feel slightly more knowedgable, healthily challenged and therefore was able to indulge such opaqueness- after all, who can know everything- apart from seemingly Mr Fry himself?

It’s a lovely, shocking, touching and at times heartrending, as well as laugh-out-loud funny book. And at the end of it I ordered Fry’s new autobiography, The Fry Chronicles.

Read it and weep with joy, sadness, laughter and wonder.

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