I had never heard of Stephen Fry before I got this autobiography as a gift almost a decade ago. I finally got down to reading Moab is My Washpot, Fry’s personal story up until the age of twenty, and it was one of the most enjoyable autobios I have ever encountered. Fry grew up in British prep and boarding schools and his tales of all-boy antics and pranks had me laughing aloud, even while reading Moab on the subway. Fry’s writing style is stream-of-thought, and although the pages may be at times solid blocks of text, the flow is so rapid, even with elongated tangential clauses (and sometimes even parenthetical asides) that I found that I could read everything in one attempt, not having to go back and reread the passage as I obsessively do in order to make sure I understand everything.
Fry grew up a lying, pranking, thieving urchin. He stole frequently from his schoolmates, teachers and from strangers, and I won’t spoil the end of Moab by revealing what the consequences of his thievery had in store for him in his late teens. His school pranks had me snickering out loud and it is not often that I am vocal while I read. My favourite prankish tale was his readjustment of a church organ’s preset buttons, and the on-the-floor uncontrolled hilarity that ensued when Fry and his friends heard the organ “fart out of tune” the following Sunday.
Stephen Fry grew up gay and, except for a brief moment of rebellion in his late teens when he dated and lost his heterosexual virginity to one (and only one) girl, was only interested in boys. He was enraptured by a boy named Matthew (lovingly nicknamed Matteo) and his stories of being unrequitedly in love with him will have bittersweet memories for all of us who have ever had feelings of attraction unreturned.
Near the end of Moab is My Washpot we learn of Fry’s suicide attempt and his successful rehabilitation. Not a long portion of the book is devoted to his suicide attempt, and one is not led to believe that it was forthcoming. Fry’s suicide attempt came after a failed academic year and a life of thieving and self-perceived failure. Once he was released from the hospital he didn’t turn his life around–not yet anyway. More thievery was in store for Fry, and he had the time of his life doing it too, living a life of luxury until…
At the end of the book Fry alludes to writing a second instalment of his life story from age 21 to 40, but has not done so yet, however an Internet search shows that volume two is in the works. I can’t wait for it.