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Moab Is My Washpot (2003)

Moab Is My Washpot (2003)
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4.01 of 5 Votes: 5
ISBN
1569472025 (ISBN13: 9781569472026)
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English
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soho press
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Moab Is My Washpot (2003)
Moab Is My Washpot (2003)

About book: To Myself: Not To Be Read Until I Am Twenty-FiveI know what you will think when you read this. You will be embarrassed. You will scoff and sneer. Well I tell you now that everything I feel now, everything I am now is truer and better than anything I shall ever be.Ever. This is me now, the real me. Every day that I grow away from the me that is writing this now is a betrayal and a defeat. I expect that you will screw this up into a ball with sophisticated disgust, or at best with tolerant amusement but deep down you will know, you will know that you are smothering what you really, really were. This is the age when I truly am. From now on my life will be behind me. I tell you now, THIS IS TRUE- truer than anything else I will ever write, feel or know. WHAT I AM NOW IS ME, WHAT I WILL BE IS A LIE.Never having been one to worship at the alter of celebrity, with all the vulgar connatations that this word arouses, I had uhmmed and aahhd before buying this book well over 1 year ago. I had always surmised it ludicrously incomprehensible this need for people to tear back the curtain, much like Dorothy and like her destroy the mystique of their idols persona. For after all that is all that it could be. These personages who entered our homes and our lives were not real. They were surely simply caricatures very carefully assembled, packaged and sold to seduce, beguile, enrage, love and be loved by us. Which is why, since I had bought this book, I had been loathed to read it in case I destroyed this illusion. In case I discovered this man, this colussus amongst men, this erudite, silver tongued charmer that I had loved and admired from afar turned out to have feet of clay. As I journeyed into Stephenesque prose I willed him to surpass even these lofty idealisms so I could then feel vindicated in having fallen prostrate before his genius.What I discovered was a flawed, flamboyant, at times arrogant, vain, exhuberant, intense, provocative,vulnerable yet guarded, tortured sentimentalist. Yes I know he was a cheat, a theif, a liar, a tormentor, a criminal and the epitome of depravity.But so are we all. Only not all of us have the courage, like him,to lay bare under a microscope the actions of our youth. His crimes to me are no more and no less than my own yet they do not define me nor him. This is what he did, not who he is. Some may argue that it is what we do that defines us. Well he lays himself bare and that is endearingly redeeming in itself. He makes no apologies and nor should he for pulverising my idol of clay.His life from childhood to adolescence is at times hilariously humorous and at others poignantly sad. I cried happily as he recounted his crushing disappointment at failing to win a star for Cawston Primary Schools Nature table and do believe that Mary Hench should take great pride in having thwarted him. This instance was of course only a precursor for many other dissapointments that were to follow. From being lamentably lame at sports to being wholly inept at music. As for his scholastic prowess in the sciences and maths the least mentioned the better I fear. A jolly good jape I hear you say but no for Stephen in listing his inadequacies displays a tortured soul who merely played the sartorial clown to hide his imperfections.These failures for him were crushing. Having his father as the person by whom he measured his own intelligence by he found it sadly wanting. I can, of course, understand why for as I read I became probably more daunted than him by this paternal being. He is resoundingly vocal in his dissapointments and resorts to profanities to drive his point home which some may find vulgar but I found to be a purity of passion. He does not prevaricate,disguise or excuse his less than savoury exploits, his startling honesty is refreshing and I found nothing more so beautiful than when he laid bare his rapture when falling in love for the first time. At that point I could have wept at the depths of his passions.There was nothing depraved or sullied in his telling. How, in an instance, his world had changed.Forever. There was nothing in the beautiful dialogue which followed I would not have recounted to a child. It was untainted by the baser undertones of lust and was just a heartfelt confession of the emotions that stir within all our breasts when we for the first time are struck by this fever.Stephen Fry is superb. Disarmingly seductive in his exposition whilst leading the reader skillfully through a maze of exploits and veering only occasionally to expostulate on some subject which his younger self had found disagreeable. But this does not detract from the telling and as I found only added to the enjoyment.As I concluded the final chapter I was glad that I found not the persona but the person. An honest, genuine, likeable person who far surpassed my expectations.

I would find it tough to fully explain why I dislike this book because to do so would require a long essay and frankly, it doesn't deserve that.In summary, I am very disappointed. Like a lot of people, I had got used to Stephen Fry the "national treasure" and I looked forward to understanding and appreciating a little more of this enigma. The man with millions of Twitter followers. The problem is, I ended up wishing I hadn't bothered. On the one hand I found myself disliking the author in a way I hadn't anticipated. This in itself is not a reason to dislike a book although in the case of an autobiography it doesn't help.Clearly you should judge his character for yourself; his use (and abuse) of privilege, his dishonesty (not just in terms of thieving), his problems with bipolar disorder and his own achievements in TV and other areas are all things that are matters of personal opinion. All I will say is that this book has somewhat spoiled my enjoyment of his fantastic portrayal of the Jeeves character and that is a crime the author himself might understand. I do feel obliged to appreciate anyone who manages to make a half-decent mark in the world and so I'll get over it.For the book itself, I found the writing variable. Sometimes there are glimpses of good prose and you kid yourself that this man is actually living up to the hype. However, the sum of the parts left me feeling that this is a hollow book written by a hollow man. It seems to me that he justifies everything by clouding your mind with words. In between the descriptions of his amazingly well appointed schools are passionate apologies, heartfelt splurges of polemic and hints of mental eccentricity. I think most of this is an act. He dismisses his own intelligence but then spends a lot of effort creating the impression that he is a victim of his own superlative brain and character. This is privileged man who uses words and quotations to create an aura of erudition around himself when on close inspection there is little to justify this view. "Oh I am not so very bright and even if I were, I wouldn't care" said the dull boy to the judge. Sure.Clearing away this cloud, I realised that I found his thoughts overblown and poorly presented. About a third of the way in I remembered that I had read "The Liar" and that it was, frankly, trash. Here, underneath the excessive verbiage and constant reference to his extensive literary knowledge, his own thoughts come through as a mishmash of gimcrack (his word) ideas, self-aggrandising and egotistical nonsense covered at appropriate times by the aforementioned passionate apologies. Finally, it occurred to me that this book tells us a lot about our society. Surface over substance. We see Stephen Fry the genius say a few smart things on TV and ergo he is amazingly talented in the eyes of the people. We don't look underneath; we tag, we label, we assume.
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Reviews
Rory
There's no denying that Stephen Fry is absurdly smart, and veddy, veddy funny. I've adored him since he was Jeeves to Hugh Laurie's Wooster. He could annotate a shopping list from 1986 and I'd be enthralled. Of course, his early life was full of much more interesting things--private English schools in the 1970s (a couple of which he was asked to leave), a suicide attempt, early explorations of his homosexuality, earnest struggles to find just where his genius might lie. I was a tiny bit anguished, though, to realize that this memoir only went through his unlikely acceptance to Cambridge, and then stops. Cambridge is where he did two things I've always been fascinated by: kicked ass on University Challenge, and was best pals with Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson. I really, really hope he writes another memoir.
Hannah
I adore Stephen Fry, ever since I discovered the joy that is QI, and mainlined like 8 seasons in 2 weeks. Ahem. Unfortunately for me, at least, his trademark verbosity is better suited to the audio/visual medium than the written word - while he is very expressive, it can get a little much to try and digest. However, the book still gives great insight into his humungous genius mind, and it was fairly entertaining/shocking to read about his various self-destrutive exploits as a youth and the rather unique nature of his experiences at boarding school.
Jude
I enjoyed this book. Well, most of it. Fry pours out his heart, quite literally in places, giving the impression that most of the book was written in a rush, without much forethought. Of course that might have been the intention. Funny in parts, as you would expect. Illuminating in others - I had not known about his early compulsion to steal. Pretentious too, of course. Intensely egotistical, despite his protestations to the contrary. If you like Stephen Fry, and you enjoy his humour, you will find a lot to like in this book. I admit I skimmed some sections that became excessively turgid or verbose. But I would read The Fry Chronicles so I must have liked it on the whole.
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