Book: Moab is My Washpot


Moab is My Washpot

Intelligence, gayness and (bipolar) mania. First 20 years of Fry’s life.
384 pages, ★★

I respect Stephen Fry as a man of a thousand talents. Wikipedia describes him as an “actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television presenter, and film director”. Moab is My Washpot was addictive to read, even if it only covers the first 20 years of his life. For me, Moab is My Washpot is about intelligence, homosexuality and a manic episode of bipolar disorder.

When talking about his (slightly sadistic) school, Stephen Fry defines intelligence as an “unappealing quality” and has “never expected anyone to find it appealing in me”. He is stumped by conversations with fans that start with, “Of course, I’m no brainbox like you”, and “I know I’m only stupid but…”. Stupid people are more appealing than pompous braggers, though:

“I might use long words from time to time and talk rapidly or name-drop culturally here and there and display and number of other silly donnish affecations, but if this gives me the impression that I might admire a similar manner or nature in others, then it makes me just want to go ‘bibbly-bobbly-bubbly-snibbly wib-wib floppit’ for the rest of my life, read nothing but Georgette Heyer, watch nothing but Emmerdale, do nothing but play snooker, take coke and get drunk and use no words longer than “wanker” and “cunt”.” — Page 125

Fry defied his “intelligent” image in school with mischief. He played with electric fences and stole money from his classmates’ coat pockets. Personally, I know that pupils with a golden reputation among teachers can get away with anything.

Fry then talks graphically about his first time having sex, also in school. It doesn’t cover much text, but because it’s so descriptive, it seems to jump out and hijack the rest of the book; so that “graphic gay sex” is the first thing I’m able to recall when I’m planning a book review. I didn’t know that he was gay, so this was a shock to read.

Moab is My Washpot ends right in the middle of the manic episode described in the TV documentary The Secret Life of the Manic Depressiveleaving us hankering for the sequel, The Fry Chronicles: An Autobiography. I look forward to the sequel, his tenth book(!), which documents the vibrant career that followed him being released from jail.

Page 322 explains how he managed to maintain both an exciting career and a distinctively charming personality: “People who can change and change again are so much more reliable and happier than those who can’t”. All things change. ★★★★

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