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The QI Annual 2008
The QI Annual 2008
by Stephen Fry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.39

9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars docere et delectare..., 8 Nov 2007
This review is from: The QI Annual 2008 (Hardcover)
and yet another addition to the media empire of chucklesome knowledge that is qi... it's not perfect, but then why should it be? like the tv show, the qi annual manages to present things well worth knowing in a way that's mostly entertaining, occasionally hilarious and never boring. all my favourite sentences begin with the words "did you know...", and the qi annual has given me lots of new ammo to form more of them. clarkson's edible environment hits the spot as nicely as any of the meals he suggests - well, better actually, unless you're partial to grilled termite - stephen's schooldays are an absolute grower and the 11th century holiday had me thrashing around the bed laughing while learning quite a bit on the side, as ever. and then of course - did you know you can determine the speed of light with some grated cheese and a microwave? see? betcha you didn't! the perfect christmas present for the cool nerd of today, and bored ninth graders, too. it puts the fun back into learning, and how many things can you say that about these days? still, only four stars because some contributors are conspicious only by their absence and sorely missed. if the next annual doesn't have something by john sessions, i shall be very sore indeed... outside that - YAY! more of that! :-D


Moab Is My Washpot
Moab Is My Washpot
by Stephen Fry
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

105 of 118 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This Book has absolutely blown my Mind, 18 Mar 2007
This review is from: Moab Is My Washpot (Paperback)
OK, this book is therapy. Reading it is, and I suspect writing it was too. I started it at 18:00h in the Dublin rush-hour (it's always advisable to have some good reading material at hand in that predicament) and finished it at 05:00h in the morning not even feeling tired, bladder bursting, dehydrated for lack of tea and grinning like a big, happy loon. I then read it all over again, straightaway. It has left me overwhelmed, chastised, wanting to shout out its virtues in Tesco and giddily, exuberantly happy; happy that such excellent language is still being written, that its creator should walk the earth as my contemporary and share his gifts so generously with all of us and, most of all, that he found redemption.

For, make no mistake, this is a redemption story; redemption not in the religious sense but in the sense of a soul coming to terms with itself. Stephen Fry's love for Oscar Wilde is well publicised, so maybe it's no coincidence that this account of his first twenty years reminded me of Wilde's fairy tales, these delicate, heartbreaking, deeply moralistic stories about love, betrayal, redemption and futility. Sometimes he finds himself cast as the Selfish Giant, sometimes as the Nightingale, sometimes as the ugly dwarf from The Birthday of the Infanta, and - might as well make full use of the Wilde connection here - the story about "Matteo" has taught me more about the true meaning of The Love that Dare not Speak its Name than over twenty years of worship at Oscar's throne.

Redemption is ultimately the result of learning to love yourself, and only once you learn to love yourself you can love others (if you don't believe me, look it up in the Bible). It is no wonder, so, that Moab is my Washpot is brimming with love, in the writing, in the feelings it evokes and between the lines. The deep affection for the people around him that is spilling from these pages is what makes even the worst escapades described on them forgivable and makes you want to offer your shoulder to the lying, thieving, betraying 17 year old Stephen to cry on. Where that school boy would have hurt people to hurt himself, 39 year old Stephen, the adult who had forgiven himself, asked them for absolution and received it.

All that said, this is still Stephen Fry we are talking about, so Moab is my Washpot is anything but a soppy hugfest. There are side-splittingly funny anecdotes in this book, deep literary and philosophical insights, acrid rants, pure, hilarious filth, language as beautiful as a white lily next to profanities that would make a sailor blush, fond asides about his colleague, confidante and Alter Ego Hugh Laurie that hint at the essence of their friendship, and everything else that makes Stephen so uniquely Stephen and us so lucky to have him.

Of course there are authors and influences without whom the book wouldn't have been written, or would certainly read very differently. There is a lot of P.G. Wodehouse in the use of simile, the way Stephen Fry displays his view of the world recalls Douglas Adams, and the whole book owes a certain debt to Graham Chapman's A Liar's Autobiography, a must read for everyone who enjoyed it.

Buy this book! Read it! Read it again! Pester libraries to stock it! Shout its virtues from the rooftops and include a copy in the payload of the next space probe to leave the solar system!

Not the full Five Stars, however, as the carthatic atmosphere that pervades this book occasionally - very occasionally that is - threatens to descend to that of a 12 Steps Confessional. Still, as autobiographies go, it is well and truly the dog's bollocks.
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