Reading Log: Stephen Fry’s ‘Moab is my Washpot’ and the Balance of Authenticity and the Curated Self

Stephen Fry has a very “created” persona. He’s the public-school smartass all grown up, always funny and always a little bit quicker than everyone else in the room. It’s a kind of applied intellectualism that makes his panel show QI so much fun and it juxtaposes nicely with the absurd in his earlier work (like The Black Adder). Stephen wears many hats, and while I found his (loosely autobiographical) debut novel ‘The Liar’ rather flawed, it was still a good read. ‘Moab’ is an altogether superior book.

Fry’s show-off intellectualism runs throughout, but it’s been tempered and contextualized by the process of recollection and reflection. His arrogance is self-aware, and his self-decrepitation never veers into false modesty. The British schoolboy memoir has certainly been done before, but it’s not a genre I’m especially familiar with, and as such I’ll refrain from commenting on this book’s place within that particular dialogue. What I will say is that it’s a damn funny book about a very likeable character, and the early arc of Fry’s life is a compelling story told exceptionally well. It isn’t going to get at any great truths of the human condition, but it isn’t trying to. It’s just a fun read that breezes by wonderfully without any insult to the reader’s intelligence.

Recommendation: Read it. It’s funny as hell and only too clever in the right sort of way.

Moab Is My Washpot
by Stephen Fry

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