Since his PBS television debut in Blackadder, multitalented writer, actor, and comedian Stephen Fry has earned many fans with his idiosyncratic wit. In this memoir, a number-one bestseller in Britain, he shares the story of his youthful years in his typical frank, funny style.
Sent to boarding school at the age of seven, he survived beatings, misery, love affairs, carnal violation, expulsion, attempted suicide, and criminal conviction to emerge—at the age of eighteen—ready to start over in a world in which he had always felt a stranger. One of very few Cambridge University graduates to have been imprisoned prior to his freshman year, Fry is “one of the great originals . . . That so much outward charm, self-awareness and intellect should exist alongside behavior that threatened to ruin the lives of the innocent victims, noble parents and Fry himself, gives the book a tragic grandeur that lifts it to classic status” (Financial Times).
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For some reason I recall it as just me and Bunce. No one else in the compartment at all. Just me, eight years and a month old, and this inexpressibly small dab of misery who told me in one hot, husky breath that his name was Samuelanthonyfarlowebunce.
I remember why we were alone now. My mother had dropped us off early at Paddington Station. My second term. The train to Stroud had a whole carriage reserved for us. Usually by the time my mother, brother and I had arrived on the platform there would have been a great bobbing of boaters dipping careless farewells into a sea of entirely unacceptable maternal hats.
Amongst the first to arrive this time, my brother had found a compartment where an older boy already sat amongst his opened tuck-box, ready to show off his pencil cases and conker skewers while I had moved respectfully forward to leave them to it. I was still only a term old after all. Besides, I wasn't entirely sure what a conker skewer might be.
The next compartment contained what appeared to be a tiny trembling woodland creature.
My brother and I had leaned from our respective windows to send the mother cheerfully on her way. We tended to be cruelly kind at these moments, taking as careless and casual a leave of her as possible and making a great show of how little it mattered that we were leaving home for such great stretches of time. Some part of us must have known inside that it was harder for her than it was for us. She would be returning to a baby and a husband who worked so hard that she hardly saw him and to all the nightmares of uncertainty, doubt and guilt which plague a parent, while we would be amongst our own. I think it was a tacitly agreed strategy to arrive early so that all this could be got over with without too many others milling around. The loudness and hattedness of Other Parents were not conducive to the particular Fry tokens of love: tiny exertions of pressure on the hands and tight little nods of the head that stood for affection and deep, unspoken understanding. A slightly forced smile and bitten underlip aside, Mummy always left the platform outwardly resolute, which was all that mattered.
All that taken care of, I slid down in my seat and examined the damp shivering thing opposite. He had chosen a window seat with its back to the engine as if perhaps he wanted to be facing homewards and not towards the ghastly unknown destination.
"You must be a new boy," I said.
A brave nod and a great spreading of scarlet in downy, hamstery cheeks.
"My name's Fry," I added. "That's my bro talking next door."
A sudden starburst of panic in the fluffy little chick's brown eyes, as if terrified that I was going to invite my bro in. He probably had no idea what a bro was.
The previous term I hadn't known either.
"Roger, Roger!" I had cried, running up to my brother in morning break. "Have you had a letter from —"
"You call me bro here. Bro. Understood?"
I explained everything to the broken little creature in front of me. "A bro is a brother, that's all. He's Fry, R. M. And I'm Fry, S.J. See?"
The hamster-chick-squirrel-downy-woodland thing nodded to show that it saw. It swallowed a couple of times as if trying to find the right amount of air to allow it to speak without sobbing.
"I was a new boy last term," I said, a huge and perfectly inexplicable surge of satisfaction filling me all the way from gartered woollen socks to blue-banded boater. "It really isn't so bad, you know. Though I expect you feel a bit scared and a bit homesick."
It didn't quite dare look at me but nodded again and gazed miserably down at shiny black Cambridge shoes which seemed to me to be as small as a baby's booties.
"Everybody cries. You mustn't feel bad about it." It was at this point that it announced itself to be Samuelanthonyfarlowebunce, and to its friends Sam, but never Sammy.
"I shall have to call you Bunce," I told him. "And you will call me Fry. You'll call me Fry S.J. if my bro is about, so there won't be any mix up. Not Fry Minor or Fry the Younger, I don't like that. Here, I've got a spare hankie. Why don't you blow your nose? There'll be others along in a minute."
"Others?" He looked up from emptying himself into my hankie like a baby deer hearing a twig snap by a water pool and cast his eyes about him in panic.
"Just other train boys. There are usually about twenty of us. You see that piece of paper stuck to the window? 'Reserved for Stouts Hill School' it says. We've got this whole carriage to ourselves. Four compartments."
"What happens when we get ... when we get there?"
"What do you mean?"
"When we get to the station."
"Oh, there'll be a bus to meet us. Don't worry, I'll make sure you aren't lost. How old are you?"
"I'm seven and a half."
He looked much younger. Nappy age, he looked.
"Don't worry," I said again. "I'll look after you. Everything will be fine."
I'll look after you.
The pleasure of saying those words, the warm wet sea of pleasure. Quite extraordinary. A little pet all to myself.
"We'll be friends," I said. "It won't be nearly as bad as you expect. You'll see."
Kindly paternal thoughts hummed in my mind as I tried to imagine every worry that might be churning him up. All I had to do was remember my own dreads of the term before.
"Everyone's very nice really. Matron unpacks for you, but you've got to take your games clothes down to the bag room yourself, so you'll have to know your school number so as you can find the right peg. My number's one-o-four, which is the highest number in the school's history, but twelve boys left last term and there are only eight or nine new boys, so there probably won't ever be a one-o-five. I'm an Otter, someone'll probably tell you what House you're in. You should watch out for Hampton, he gives Chinese bums and dead legs. If Mr. Kemp is on duty he gives bacon slicers. It's soccer this term, my bro says. I hate soccer but it's conkers as well which is supposed to be really good fun. My bro says everyone goes crazy at conker time. Conkers bonkers, my bro says."
Bunce closed up the snotty mess in the middle of my hankie and tried to smile.
"In two weeks' time," I said, remembering something my mother had told me, "you'll be bouncing about like a terrier and you won't even be able to remember being a bit nervous on the train."
I looked out of the window and saw some boaters and female hats approaching.
"Though in your case," I added, "you'll be buncing about ..."
A real smile and the sound of a small giggle.
"Here we go," I said. "I can hear some boys coming. Tell you what, here's my Ranger. Why don't you be reading it when they come in, so you'll look nice and busy."
He took it gratefully.
"You're so kind," he said. "I've never met anyone as kind as you."
"Nonsense," I replied, glowing like a hot coal.
I heard the grand sounds of approaching seniors.
"Okay then, Mum," someone said.
"Don't say 'okay,' darling. And you will write this time, won't you?"
My bro and I never called our parents Mum and Dad. It was always Mummy and Daddy until years later when Mother and Father were officially sanctioned. Towards adulthood we allowed ourselves to use, with self-conscious mock-Pooterism, Ma and Pa.
Last term, I had put my hand up in an art lesson and said, "Mummy, can I have another piece of charcoal?" The form had howled with laughter.
There again, during the first weeks of summer holidays I often called my mother "Sir" or "Matron."
Bunce buried himself in the Trigan Empire, but I knew that he was listening to the sounds too and I could tell that the confidence and loudness of the other boys' voices terrified him. He clutched the sides of the comic so hard that little rips appeared on the outer pages.
On the way to Paddington after lunch I had felt more dread, infinitely more terror and despair at the prospect of school than I had the term before. During the long summer holiday Roger had told me to expect this. Homesickness was much worse the second and third terms than it was the first. Bunce had come as a godsend therefore, something to take my mind off my own fears.
The door to our carriage slid open with a loud bang.
"Oh God, it's Fry's Turkish Delight. And what the hell are you doing by the window?" "Hello, Mason," I said.
"Come on, shove over."
Bunce started to rise like a courteous old commuter offering his seat to a heavily-packaged woman. "Would you like ... ?" he began huskily.
"No, I want Fry's seat, if he hasn't stunk it out yet."
Well there it was. I felt my face flush scarlet as I got up mumbling something inaudible, and removed myself to the corner seat farthest from the window.
For five minutes I had enjoyed the sensation of someone looking up to and admiring me. Bunce had respected me. Believed in me. Trusted me. Now the little puppy would see that the rest of the school treated me as if I was no one. Just another tiresome squit. I sat in my new seat, trying to look unconcerned and stared down at my bare knees and the grazes and indentations of gravel still there from a bicycle fall. Only yesterday afternoon I had been riding along the lanes listening to skylarks high in the huge Norfolk skies and watching partridges tread stubble in the fields. Three weeks ago I had had my eighth birthday party and been taken to see The Great Race at the Gaumont in Norwich.
Mason settled himself into his conquered seat and looked across at Bunce with great curiosity and an air of faint repugnance, as if Bunce might be of a breed he had never run into before and hoped never to encounter again.
"You," said Mason, kicking across at him. "Have you got a name then?"
The reply came as something of a shock.
"I have got a name," said Bunce, rising, "but it's none of your bloody business."
Mason looked stupefied. There was nothing in the least bad about him. In taking my seat and remarking on my smell he had meant no particular insult, he was merely exercising the natural privilege of seniority. Seniority is pay-back time. He had been treated like a worm when he was small, now it was his turn to treat those under him like worms. He was ten, for heaven's sake. He was allowed to wear long trousers. At prep school, ten is to eight what forty is to twenty in adult life.
"I'm going over there," said Bunce, pointing to the seat next to mine. "It smells better over there." He threw himself down beside me with a determined bounce on the springs and then ruined everything by bursting into tears.
Mason was denied the chance of any response to this astonishing eruption by the entrance into the compartment of Kaloutsis and his parents. It was not at all done for Family to board the train, but Kaloutsis was Greek and his parents serenely above the finer points of English protocol.
"Ah, and here's a little one," cried Mrs. Kaloutsis, swooping down on Bunce. "And no one looking after you?"
"Thank you," Bunce snivelled, "but Fry S. J. is looking after me very well indeed. Very well. Very well indeed. I had a smut in my eye and he lent me his handkerchief."
Train boys were generally the sons of military or colonial parents, and had flown in to London Airport to be picked up by uncles, aunts or godparents who would take them on to Paddington. Most other boys at Stouts Hill were driven to school by their parents.
The reserved compartments filled up over the next quarter-hour with deeply tanned boys returning from hot weeks in places like Northern Rhodesia, Nigeria, India, Aden, the West Indies and Ceylon. One boy, Robert Dale, whom I liked, sat opposite me and Bunce and told us about India. Dale's father edited an English-language newspaper in Bombay and Dale always shouted "Aiee!" when he was in pain. It had amazed me greatly when I first heard him stubbing his toe against the foot of the bed in the dormitory, since I had never imagined that expressions of pain could vary. I had thought "Ouch!" and "Ow!" were the same allover the world. I had suffered a hot and bothered exchange in my first French lesson, for example, when I was told that the French for "Oh!" was "Ah!"
"Then how do they say 'Oh,' sir?"
"They say 'Ah.'"
"Well then, how do they say 'Ah'?"
"Don't be stupid, Fry."
I had sulked for the rest of the lesson.
Dale took off his shoes and socks and leaned back. He had the most splendidly fine feet, with a perfect, even spread of toes. At the beginning of every autumn term boys like him who spent their school holidays in Africa, Asia or the West Indies would show off by running across gravel barefoot without any pain. By the end of the term, with winter set in, their feet would have lost their natural tough layers of callused skin and they would be just the same as the rest of us.
A guard looked in and performed a brief headcount. He gazed into the middle distance and told us that the last boy who had rested his foot on a seat had been arrested by the police at Didcot and put in prison, where he still languished on a diet of bread and water.
"Sounds better than school food," said Dale.
The guard grunted at our giggles and left. Boaters were thrown on to luggage-racks, feet put up on seats and talk turned to soccer, what had been done in the hols, who was going to be made prefect and the whole Edwardian schoolboy novel nonsense. Mason seemed to have forgotten all about Bunce's strange outburst and was delighting the boy opposite with underarm farts.
After one of those squealing, juddering, stomach-dropping false starts with which trains so tactlessly articulate human emotion, we pulled ourselves out of the great shed of Paddington and steamed west.
The Gloucestershire town of Stroud, sanctified by the memory and to the memory of Laurie Lee, produces — or used to produce — almost all the baize that Britain and her dominions ever thought to use. Baize for the doors into servants' quarters, baize for billiards, snooker and pool, baize for card tables, baize for casinos, auction-rooms and baize to drape over the cages of songbirds to fool them into thinking it night. Some miles to the south of Stroud stands the Bury, a great green hill over whose shoulders one might believe the weavers of the Slad Valley once threw a huge bolt of their baize as a giant billboard to show off their product to the world. The small village of Uley snuggles itself into the thicker nap at the base of this fuzzy-felt hill and sleeps there contentedly, unaware of triple-thick shakes, pay-per-view Fight Nights, Lottery Wins day and driver's side air bags. The village of Uley still believes in Gestetnered parish magazines, dividend tea, sherbet dips, Heinz Salad Cream and half-timbered Morris vans. The village of Uley grows lobelias and alyssum on the front fringes of lawn that bank up to warm ham-stone cottages out of which rumble the deep tones of Long Wave wireless. The village pub of Uley radiates a warm vapour in which are mingled the vanilla richness of pipe tobacco and the malty hum of Usher's Ales. The village church of Uley has its fragrance too, a compound of Esso Blue, Mansion furniture wax and hymn books in a state of permanently suspended decay.
High on a mound half a mile away stands Stouts Hill School, a dashing castle of knapped flint, all turrets and arrow-slits and skirted by a dragon-fly flicking, carp-snapping, mallow-flaming lake. The lane from Stouts Hill to the village winds steeply down to the Dursley Road. There is horse shit there, dropped in caramac-coloured lumps by warm-sided bay mares ridden by gymkhana-jolly girls who blush fiercely when they meet your eye.
There is horse shit there all right.
In the village of Uley nought-percent-financed Daewoos lurk behind remotely controlled carport doors, satellite dishes glitter from the roofs, copal-varnished slices of barked Do-It-All elmwood proclaim Mulberry Lodge, South Fork and El Adobe. A blackboard outside the village pub vibrates in three-coloured chalk with the promise of Happy Hour, pool, premium guest beers and big screen satellite TV. The smell of stale lager and Doritos leaks up the main street to the church, where laserprinted A pages flap announcements from the chancel wall promising car boot sales and outreach fellowship retreats in Wales. Lard-arsed fatties in Russell Athletic sweatshirts swap Sensual Love Guide CD-ROMs with their neighbours as their Nike-ticked kids line up burger cartons on the barbecue patio and zap them with turboboosted water guns. The girls smear blusher on their cheeks and poke their tongues out fiercely when they meet your eye. Stouts Hill the school has closed now, to be replaced by Stouts Hill the time-share holiday home.
Well, maybe it's not so bad. Somewhere between warm gloop and cold water is the tepid truth about the village of Uley, which gets on with life as charmingly as it can. There was a time when the very Mansion furniture wax, dividend tea and gymkhana girls of sentimental memory were themselves modern and noisomely resented intrusions; books will one day be written that recall CD-ROMs and Russell Athletic sweatshirts in a nostalgic melancholy haze as fervent and foolish as any.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Moab Is My Washpot"
Copyright © 1997 Stephen Fry.
Excerpted by permission of Soho Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
About the Author,
What People are Saying About This
This book bubbles; it boils and it bubbles with wonderful language, quick wit and loopy digression that always leads you home again. You can always hear Fry's wonderfully lyrical (English) voice in this book, and that voice is delightfully irreverent, cozy, smart, funny and insightfully honest. His voice is a great read.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm lucky enough to have an autographed first edition of this book and while I love it, no one I know has read it. If you like Stephen Fry, if you've read his other books, read this to get a glimpse into the brilliance that is Stephen Fry.
I recently read THE FRY CHRONICLES and decided I should start at the very beginning. And as with the first book, Fry is so open and confiding I felt when I finished this one I could have coffee and a chat with him. He doesn't hold back. The book is very personal and you know exactly how he feels about certain topics. He's funny and witty and serious and direct. It left me wanting more which is good. I can't recommend this book enough.
While I enjoyed this book, it was nothing like what I expected it to be. I had hoped to find out more about Stephen's career as a comedian, but this book only covers his first 18 years. But what years! A very troubled boy who (I hope) has a much happier life now.
Stephen Fry recounts his childhood and teenage years with honesty and candor. Whenever I read an autobiography I'm prepared for some bias and self-absorption, but Fry's book seems to be a sincere attempt to be candid and reflect upon his past. The autobiography feels relatively uncensored as he writes about mischief at boarding school, unrequited love, making use of a stolen credit card, and a suicide attempt during his teenage years. It's all presented with humor and little, if any, self-aggrandizement. I finished the book feeling as though I had read his carefully thought-out musings and insights on life and certain topics in general, rather than simply a retelling of the events that had occurred his own life.
Moab is My Washpot is a grippingly honest account of the first eighteen years of Stephen Fry's life. Fry guides us through the joys and torments of his youth in sometimes shockingly intimate detail. The narrative moves effortlessly from a timid boy in knee high shorts to accounts of lost virginity and credit card fraud, with a few sweet shop incidents in between. Sometimes the flow of the story is sidetracked by Fry's intellectual explorations, but to its benefit, not detraction. I was particulary taken by the proposed similarities between Fry's bent nose and the British monarchy - if you can't think what those might be, you'll have to read it and see. Not forgetting, of course, the poor dead hedgehog.The wonder of this book and what keeps it so compelling all the way through is that is is so open, full of emotion and guts. It not just a collection of events but the story the a growth of a personality from the perspective of its person. I have good friends who have never revealed as much of themselves to me as Fry has in the pages of Moab.The account is engagingly written and, despite the dark nature of some of the content, full of wry humorous observations. Highly recommended.
I absolutely loved this book.His description of falling in love for the first time brought tears to me eyes.
Great read. Perhaps a little self indulgent in places. Also although the tone is one of complete openness, some things are clearly hidden in hindsight (no mention, for example, of his manic depression, though this is perhaps understandable since he'd only just found this out when he was writing the book). But these are minor niggles. Generally, an entertaining and fascinating insight.
This is the autobiography of one of my favorite actors. Fry's a wonderful comic actor and an even better writer. It stops at about age 20 or so; I hope he writes another about what's happened since.
brilliant and witty description of the early years of a gay English Jew - a delight
Fry is a funny guy -- here he tells the story of his life right up until the point that most people would want him to start. But even if he refuses to tell about meeting Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery, his early life is fascinating. And, of course, told in witty and erudite Fry fashion
I have read a disgustingly filthy, sometimes proud, often conceited, over-privileged, occasionally arrogant and slightly posh-prat tell me how he eventually amended his behaviour and became an unofficial but undoubted National Treasure. It is Stephen Fry, and I heartily commend the book to anyone who admires the man and enjoys good writing. At the end I wanted to hug the guy, and urge him to hurry up and write another four or five volumes. It is his best book so far. (And I have read the others, which are all worth reading.) The title, Moab Is My Washpot, is a quotation from the Bible. As I write my own diary stuff I am aware that this wonderful book, an account of his first twenty years, can help my own attempt at honest. But the book makes me also aware that writing your own story can never be wholly honest.
Stephen Fry's Moab is My Washpot is a brilliant example of a well written memoir. Although it is disappointing that Fry left out (for good reason) his years at Cambridge, Moab does cover his early years until he is in his twenties. A great read for a fan of Fry.I was most impressed with Fry's ability to tell the story of his childhood and adolescence while all the while interjecting pieces of his forty year old life. It was refreshing to see the childish Stephen paired up against the Stephen we all know and love today.His stories of his first (unrequited) love were heart warming and his tales of boarding school interesting for anyone, like myself, who would have no way of knowing the ins and outs of boarding school life. Especially in a country different from my own
I really enjoyed this. It was so honest (sometimes brutally so) and unflinching. There were so many things it would have been easier for Fry to have left out, but that he included them shows a real bravery. I have always respected Stephen Fry for his intelligence, and his humour, and his way of managing to make so much sound interesting but somehow knowing he hasn¿t always had it easy, and hasn¿t always been the greatest person makes me respect him more. That he has gone through certain things, and has turned his whole life around. It would have been so easy to say he was young and stupid but he doesn¿t try to excuse himself of anything, he knows he should have done better. I loved how he was so honest about his emotions throughout. He could have just written it as a this is what happened and made a book out of it but then I don¿t think it would have been particularly special, emotion is something only an autobiography can fully do when writing about fact. At some points he went of on tangents, or even rants which lasted several pages. I suppose for some this could have been annoying but it made the book seem less manufactured to me and more like he was speaking to you. The only other of Fry¿s books I have read is The Liar. I found that plot wise (if we can say an autobiography has a plot) The Liar carried along more nicely, but nobodies life is all action after all and considering that you didn¿t really get bored with Moab is my Washpot. I did find this one easier to read in some ways though, they both had the same style of writing which was almost poetic, and they both had words or ideas that I found hard to grasp but I think part of what made The Liar was that it was meant to confuse whereas Moab is my Washpot was quite simple.
A much needed little injection of 'englishness' while at univ. in Paris. This was a thoroughly enjoyable, quick and easy read; 1 'moab is my wash pot' = about a week's leisurely on the metro addiction. love Fry's writing style; most of the time quite chatty. Might or might not be an insight behind the QI face we all know and love, do get the distinct impression at times that may only be allowing the reader behind one layer of a carefully contructed facade. Are Stephen Frys like onions?? This is, of course, his prerogative, and one wouldn't want a memoir/autobigraphy to be ALL-revealing, it would ruin the fun of it. The odd title; this is never explicitely explained, but I think I got it (?).
Perhaps you picked up this book not knowing Stephen. Well, you're about to get very closely acquainted. There is something about the way Stephen strings together words in lists that rolls off your tongue in some sort of symbiotic symmetry & the things he goes on about (passion, obfuscations, insults, literature,...) delights, captivates &... obfuscate. How can he even wonder why people treat him like a living encyclopaedia? The matter of life, growing up & falling in love is all dealt with in the manner I would expect a long lost twin would to his other. To me, his story is a reminder of that old adage about not everything meeting the eye, & the truth in all fables of redemption.
The Stephen Fry I 'recognise' is intimidatingly clever, undoubtedly smug, but very loveable and above all exceptionally witty. The narrator of this book - Stephen the autobiographer - is all these things. The Young Schoolboy Stephen he writes about is all these things too. Young Schoolboy Stephen is also a horrible little git. A troubled horrible little git admittedly, but a horrible little git nonetheless.What is unusual is that Stephen-the-autobiographer fully accepts that he was horrible, and makes no excuses for it. "Yes" he says, "I was gay and Jewish and borderline genius and suffering from unrequited love". Many autobiographers would add "Therefore I lied and stole and was cruel and generally did my selfish best to self-destruct". Instead, Stephen stresses that these were arguably factors in his remarkable messed-up-edness, but that they definitely weren't responsible for his actions and that he ultimately has nothing but his own character to blame. Does this mean he is refreshingly honest and unafraid of being disliked? Or does it mean he is unafraid of Young Stephen being retrospectively disliked - while strongly emphasising "This isn't me NOW. I'm ashamed of it NOW"? Then again, his unflinching description of Horrible Git Stephen is still mixed with a healthy dose of familiar Fry charm and endearing insecurities. Is he saying, in smug Stephen fashion, "I was detestable, but you love me anyway, don't you?" Which I do actually. It's all very confusing.So I've decided, I won't care. At the end of the day, this book is moving and intelligent and bloody funny, with amazing language. I love the random tangents as well. Now I'm off to watch QI.
This book is so honest and so personal that it feels like an intrusion to read it. Having said that, once I started I couldn't stop!
Utterly delightful language.
Stephen Fry is delightful. In part because Stephen Fry's writing is delightful. An autobiography on Stephen Fry should therefore be ... precisely. And it is. In a weird, sometimes slightly disturbing way. This book deals with his experiences at school, his criminal tendencies, his sexual awakening and his first love. It starts on the train to boarding school and culminates in prison (which is apparently oddly like boarding school in a number of ways) and then the entrance to Cambridge.Autobiographies have a habit of becoming either self-glorifying grand narratives inexorably driving the author towards his major achievements, or staid sequences of events of the "and then I did this", however sprinkled with juicy anecdotes and opinions about how everyone else went wrong. Stephen Fry, being delightful, manages to avoid both clichés.He laughs at linearity and digresses to his heart's content, skipping backwards and forwards with glee. The first time he did it he did not signal it, and it left me confused for a moment; but as the confusion passed I realised how much I love this way of doing autobiography: he holds in his mind at the same time the memory of himself as a boy and the world around him as it was then, and the knowledge of how it all develops. He does not force the one to submit to the other, in a sort of bleak determinism or an equally problematic nostalgia. Instead he is constantly commenting on the construction of the image of the past that he is creating. The opening words provide a good example:For some reason I recall it as just being me and Bunce. No one else in the compartment at all. Just me, eight years old, and this inexpressibly small dab of misery who told me in one hot, husky breath that his name was Samuelanthonyfarlowebunce. I remember why we were alone now. My mother had dropped us off early at Paddington Station. The impression it gives is not one of fact recounted but of the progress of remembering. Interspersed with the memories are philosophical observations, literary discussions (there is some very good stuff about a gay, dandyfied counter-culture in opposition to the ideal of muscular christianity and its heteronormativity. And P.G. Wodehouse, of course.) and some delicious common sense. The strangest part of reading the book was the oscillation in my mind between absorbing this book as a piece of literature, empathising with the protagonist and thoroughly enjoying myself, and the knowledge that this is Stephen Fry recounting (or at least producing an image of) his childhood. The story of how he was made to see a speech therapist, for example, is very different when you know how wonderfully distinctly he speaks now. The idea that his speech might be incomprehensible is so wildly unbelievable that it somehow becomes wildly interesting. That, and I love trying the tongue twisters. I think I startled my boyfriend by suddenly saying thatBetty had a bit of bitter butter and put it in her batter and made her batter bitter. Then Betty put a bit of better butter in her bitter batter and made her bitter batter better. (103)I also laughed out loud several times (cue more startled looks), despite the fact that so much of the book is taken up with recounting humiliations and difficulties in fitting in among other children. The theme should make it sad and difficult to read, but it is told in such a way that it is delightful (that word again),even hilarious. There is a story about a dead mole and an evil girl with a donkey which cannot be summarised. And Fry's rants about the horror of not being able to sing had me giggling.The book also left me feeling that I now know all I ever needed to know about a young gay man's sexual awakening. Not to mention all the stuff that apparently goes (went?) on at public schools. But while I am usually very prudish about this sort of thing, it did not put me off here. Perhaps because of the way it is written. And perhaps because it was all tied up with ra
This book is the very start of the story of Stephen Fry. With this novell, Fry delves deep into the compelling issues that make the Fry we know today. Everything from homesexuality, to the ttime he spent in jail. This book is informative, interesting, sad, happy endearing and absolutley hilarious!!!!!! a great read for age range 15+.
An at times painfully honest autobiography of a much-loved British institution.
I've always loved Stephen Fry's writing and acting and thoroughly enjoyed reading this account of his early life. It gives a real glimpse into the whole British school boy boarding school experience. Fry uses words so well and knows how to tell a story. This autobiography is linear in that it goes through the events of his school life, but then he also goes off on tangents that reveal more about who Stephen Fry is and the kind of world that he grew up in. I love this kind of meandery story telling. This is a well written memoir that I raced through because I could hardly put it down. I can hardly wait to read the next one.
This book is written so well. Fry does an amazing job. It was like poetry. The words just flowed right after one another. It was a beautiful book to read after going an unusually long time without reading. I would recommend it to anyone.
Good book, well written and much funnier than the more popular Fry Chronicles. Interesting to hear about his early life.