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I am generally a fan of Stephen Fry, I find him witty, intelligent, and quite charming. I loved his work of a few years ago 'secret life of the manic depressive', and I enjoy his presenting style in general.
So I was quite pleased to get Moab is My Washpot, his autobiography of birth to around University age (it does not cover his later years, fame and so forth) in audio book form, on CD to listen to in the car primarily.
The CD cover is much the same of the book - a bright red cover, a chalked on sort of white font, and a big walrus! (Most of his books follow this style whether audio CD or paperback / hardback though the main colour and of course the picture changes). I'd never read any of his work before and was looking forward to Moab is My Washpot, as I had a genuine interest in Stephen Fry.
This particular audio CD is read by the author, another plus, because he does have a lovely reading voice, very paced and expressive, and comedic / dramatic where appropriate. And who better to read the book than the author, especially when the book in question is an autobiography?
I don't want to spoil Moab is My Washpot for you, however on the whole I didn't really enjoy it, there are a few reasons for this, firstly Fry can be awfully concescending at times - he really doesn't need to over - explain literary, historical and cultural analogies as he does - he almost expects the reader to need a companion guide, which is not the case at all, I would think the average reader can more than follow a few references without feeling lost. He pushes the agenda that he is so very very special, so clever and witty, whereas if you listen to the content of the book, his acaedemic record certainly does not tally. Fair enough, some people do not excel in education and they are still extremely clever, however Fry seems to try and drill it home repeatedly almost as an excuse for his poor record of intelligence.
Secondly as I listened to the book, it becomes apparent that Fry wasn't all that nice a person when younger - he wasn't very nice to his family, particularly his father, and is extremely dismissive of him also. Fry even steals a credit card and is sentenced to juvenile detention for fraud - something he tries to make light of, with no real attempt at understanding or remorse, much less apology.
Overall I wasn't hugely impressed by Moab is My Washpot, between Fry being rather repugnant in character, and him stressing how very very clever and witty he is, there isn't enough plot or interest to stretch out into a full autobiography, even with his lively narrative. Maybe if he'd covered his life in one book, or he'd been better edited, but as it stands I have no desire to listen to or read any of his future works which is a great shame.
I still like Stephen Fry and by no means think he is not a clever man, but sometimes this isn't enough in terms of fleshing out a witty story, or a personality, or a book. Two stars out of five for me - it might have enough interest in it to sustain a Stephen Fry fan but for me it's just rather disappointing.
For the biblically disinclined let's begin with an explanation for the title of Stephen Fry's audiobook. The citizens of Moab were a motley crew. Check out psalm 60:8 of the Old Testament for the tale of their filth and ungodly behaviour. The people of Moab were the enemies of Israel and therefore enemies of God. Eventually they were sorted out but they were considered as lowly as the pots that people washed their feet in. They were to be viewed with contempt until they changed their wicked and insolent behaviour. Skip ahead, many centuries later, and enter upon the human race - Stephen Fry. This man, with his great command of the English language, wonderful acting skills, and great television presenter, on shows, such as QI, turns out to be full of insecurities. So self-depreciating is Fry that he compares his first twenty years of life, in this audio autobiography, to the people of Moab. He considers himself to have been proud and arrogant and no better than a wash pot for dirty feet but time has changed him and like the people of Moab he has been given the second chance to rehabilitate and move forward positively.
Stephen Fry was born into a middle-class family and we learn about his childhood experiences with the most focus is on his time at a boys boarding school. We learn about corporal punishment and the disturbing nature of it. Being subjected to the cane certainly didn't stop Fry from misbehaving. He was wild in his antics and resorted to theft and there is more. He also covers issues of his sexuality, and details his first love, but I'll leave that for you to find out when you buy this audiobook and buy it I think you will!
It's all delivered in his correctly pronounced English and Fry will engage you even when he goes off on tangents. He shares and enlightens without asking for our pity. I feel for Fry but the respect I all ready held has increased off the scale.
This is a raw and candid exposure of the dark days and years of Stephen Fry's life. Sometimes the content can make me cringe. It is if Fry is publically humiliating himself in a spot of self-flagillation done in the streets for all to see. I cannot condemn a person for bearing all so graphically. For him it must be an important step in understanding the behaviours of himself and others. Did you know Fry has a criminal record? He shocks, and yet look what this great personality has overcome, and see the masses of work he does through the media to raise awareness of mental illness such as the one he suffers with - bi-polar disorder. He brings us understanding of language and grammar and all with his unfailing wit. This is a therapy for Fry but something that we can all admire and respect. You won't mind him sharing it with you. You will be fascinated. One word of warning though, there are obscenities in this, and you certainly wouldn't want any child, under the age of eighteen, listening to this unless they are mature and open minded. Fry is a man of genius and his intellect comes with a dear price, he over analyses himself. He berates his child self and he has suffered terribly with mental illness. All his experiences and honesty makes him even more of an admirable man. We journey through the roughest of times through to the amazing man he is today.
It's not all sad. There are plenty of witty comic moments. He'll increase your vocabulary at the same time as telling you his life story. Now that seems to me like extra value for money.
In summary, this is a deep, and sometimes disturbing, insight into the private life of Stephen Fry. I spent, not far off, twenty pounds for this in, I think 2009, or maybe 2010, and even at a high end price, it has been worth every penny.
If you didn't already like and respect Stephen Fry you will after listening to this unabridged audio book of his confessing to a fraught, and sometimes, ugly past which he has turned around into a fantastic career. I'm sure Fry would be a wonderful man to be friends with, but for those of us that aren't in his inner circle, he makes you feel like you are included during the duration of this. To discover more about Fry the 'anti-hero,' as he refers to himself, it's only, just now, £5.98 on Kindle from Amazon. Expect to pay up to ten pounds more for the CD. But oh, Stephen Fry is worth it!
Moab Is My Washpot:
by Stephen Fry
Review by Floatingclouds
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I'm going to structure this review slightly differently to my previous contenders. This write up is based on the book Moab Is My Washpot by Stephen Fry.
My only knowledge about Stephen Fry before reading the book, were his regular appearances on television shows and his documentary about bipolar last year.
So lets get on with the review - enjoy the ride oops read!
So I've decided to take Stephen Fry to bed with for the next few nights. I'm not sure how long this will last. It will probably depend on how long I can stay awake.
Oh please you're not being one track minded are you?
What I'm trying to say is I'll be listening to the Audio Book Moab Is My Washpot written and read by Stephen Fry. This is Stephen Frys autobiography.
Youll receive the latest installments on a daily basis so until tomorrow night farewell.
Well what can I say? An amazing night of entertainment! I was so mesmerised by the introduction of this book. It begins on a train journey to boarding school. A lot more interesting than it sounds honestly!
You see I'm virgin to Stephen Fry's written work. I wasn't sure how well I'd take to his writing. However I'm pleased I overcame any prejudices (yes I did have some).
I can now stand up proudly and say in a confident voice
I'm a Stephen Fry convert.
Well who would of thought it. Stephen Fry was a school thief. Pick pocketing for loose change in the changing rooms at school. Sweets played a massive part in Stephen's school days. Stephen liked to go anywhere which was out of bounds in his strict public school. He even admits to the thrill of getting caught.
So progress... I'm really enjoying 'Moab is My Washpot' so far so good. Not a dull moment to declare.
Ive finished CD 1 (there are 3 CDs in total). Im slightly disappointed about this. Why? Well Im reaching the half way mark and Im really finding this book incredibly interesting.
So what did I learn last night? More about Stephens naughty school days. At times I had to remind myself that this was non-fiction. Its hard to believe that someone could have been so mischievous and brash with it. Id never have even attempted to go into the Headmasters office let alone pinch all the confiscated sweets tut tut!
If Im learning anything from this book its the realisation about kids and their sacred currency, sweets! Oh yes, and the fun fifthteen school kids and an electric fence can have
Well last nights encounter of Stephen Frys school days became quite steamy. I must hand it to the guy, so utterly honest. The language has now become quite foul-mouthed, so please be warned dear reader if youre easily offended.
Although Im sure youll find Stephens love for Mathew as fascinating as I did. It shows more of the sensitive, vulnerable side of Stephens personality.
Still enjoying the book, you just never know what might happen next. The tempo has increased and you can really feel as well as understand the anguish Stephen is describing.
Finished the book today; I remembered on [Day two] how excited I was by the intro, how I wanted the book to last forever. CD 3 touched the lower, deeper, darker parts of Stephens life.
It was very sad and very emotional. Suicide attempts, committing serious fraud you name it Stephen did it.
. Conclusion .
I do hope I havent given away too much of the book. I would highly recommend reading / listening to this exciting autobiography. You dont have to be a fan of Stephen Frys work, to enjoy his younger days.
The writing style and the reading voice were both superb. Some times you can find the author is obviously great at writing but hopeless at reading their own work. This was not the case here. It did mention near the end of CD 3 that Stephen did read some books for the blind this may have helped!
I seem to have quite a short concentration spam. Hence it took me quite a while to read the book. However I did not lose concentration and I can still remember a lot of the going ons in Stephens younger days!
I hope you like the book as much as I did
Audio Compact Disc
Audio Book Details
(The CD seems to have disappeared out of online book shelves therefore I have included audio cassette details below).
Publisher: Random House Audiobooks
Format: Audio cassette
List Price: £19.99
A humorous autobiography that covers the author's time at public school, acting and writing career and the ups and downs of his personal life.