Moab Is My Washpot is actor Stephen Fry’s memoir/autobiography. The title of this book is derived from a quote in a P.G Wodehouse book, which in turn is derived from a Biblical reference. I was already familiar with the fictionalized version of his turbulent adolescence in his novel The Liar, but I only discovered this memoir in the last couple of weeks.
Stephen Fry has made an illustrious career for himself, one that spans nearly four decades. This memoir, however, is limited to his first 18 years. Stephen spent most of his childhood at boarding school, where he experienced all sorts of Dickensian horrors. When things go awry at school, Stephen revolts at the plan to keep his life on track, and embarks on a crime spree. Despite his attempts to sabotage himself, Stephen manages to find a place at Cambridge. This memoir does not cover those years, but of course, fans will know that this is where Fry will fall in with lifelong friends like Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson.
Fry is known for his sardonic humor, and I found his stories to be hilarious. There is a sense of poignancy, of course, as he struggles to find a place for himself in a world that doesn’t accept him for who he is. This manifests in cheekiness and general insubordination. Fry looks back on these incidents with the clarity of an adult, and his commentary on class, sexuality, and tradition are quite astute.
I would recommend Moab Is My Washpot to fans of Stephen Fry, Anglophiles, and perhaps anyone who spent their formative years at boarding school. I found this book to be a quick read, and I have gained even more of an appreciation for Fry than I had before. I’m sure that this is a book I will circle back and re-read in the future.