Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Book Review: Moab is my Washpot,

the autobiography of Stephen Fry, copyright 1997, available from Arrow Books.

Just go read it.

(Miss Melville: you need to read this because there's a great section about the nature of truth and The British Personality that I think may prove vaguely relevant to your cultural studies. If nothing else it's a great jape to lump it in your Biblio.)

Stephen Fry is brilliant with words, we all know that. He's not just clever or witty with them, as are many charming punsters. He genuinely loves them, knows them intimately, and understands their origins and many changing usages through time. As such, he chooses his words very carefully and very deliberately (yet maintaining a tone of chatty spontenaity -- there is nothing stilted or contrived about his style). Each word is there because it is the only one that will do. It is the correct word for that space, and no other word could fill its function. For the reader, it's like looking at a painting by a Dutch Master, every brush stroke doing exactly what it is meant to do. It's a joy, a genuine joy to read, never mind the content.

And the content is just as good. He goes back and forth between personal anecdotes and grand cosmic thoughts, in a sort of conversational way. It's an easy read, and yet still thought-provoking. His section on music and the way it effects him, the way he affects music, and the social consequences therein, is breathtaking.

I don't understand the title. I know it's from Psalm 108, but I don't understand its meaning or relevance. If anyone else does, please share with the rest of the class.

Overall rating: 4 bungling buggerers


(Oh, and this bit is funny. Apparently once instead of committing suicide, Stephen Fry once went to Belgium instead, as a sort of punishment. Go watch "In Bruge" and tell me if that's not the funniest thing you've ever heard in your life.)

7 comments:

Billy said...

You mean Psalm 60 I think:

"Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe: Philistia, triumph thou because of me."

The Moabs were often in conflict with the Israelites, so I think in the Psalm they're slagging off the Moabs, saying they're only good for washing one's feet in.

What that has to do with Mr Fry's book I have no idea.

BEAST said...

I have no idea what it means , but I shall give it a read as Mr Fry is a marvellous writer

Chaucer's Bitch said...

Billy: nor do i.

beast: indeed he is. i hope you enjoy it.

Agnostic Possom said...

C's B: You use more adjectives in a paragraph than I do in a day! (Perhaps I'm too Stoic.) I appreciate the mental stimuli. Please keep blogging!

Agnostic Possom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ZB said...

Read it when it came out. It is brilliant but like all self penned bio's should be read more as a work of fiction than fact. Like the laying down of an archive, there's always an element of agenda in play. #

But if you want to really see him at his best go and get either 'The Ode Less Travelled' or 'Paperweight.' The Ode... taught me more about poetry in one book than thirty years of constant Eng. Lit.

And Paperweight is just dripping with pithy commentary. And it's funny.

Chaucer's Bitch said...

'Possum: perhaps, but most of my adjectives are just profanities masquerading as intensifiers.

zb: kind of like blogging, eh? I'm definately keen to look up some of his other stuff. thanks for the advice.