As you can see here the polymathic (and for all I know polyrhythmic) Mr. Stephen Fry is currently sealed up in a mountain fastness working his fingers to the bone on the second volume of his autobiography. The work in progress will pick up the story where the enigmatically named Moab is my Washpot (the title is the start of a line from Psalm 60, although its significance to Fry himself is anyone’s guess) left off.
Those who know Fry as – do take a deep breath here – a member of the Cambridge Footlights (his contemporaries included Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, and Tony Slattery), or as the slightly taller half of Fry and Laurie, or as Jeeves in the television series Jeeves and Wooster (which also starred Laurie), or as Melchett in the Blackadder series, or as the director of Bright Young Things, or as the host of QI, or as Peter Kingdom in the ITV series Kingdom, or as the presenter of Stephen Fry in America, or as a presenter, with Mark Carwardine, of Last Chance to See, or as Oscar Wilde in the film Wilde, or as… Anyway: people who know him for all that might be shocked to know that – somehow – he manages to find the time to write, as well.
And to write well, as well, if you see what I mean.
At the time of accounting he has four novels to his name (The Liar, The Hippopotamus, Making History and The Star’s Tennis Balls, published in 1993, 1994, 1997 and 2000 respectively), a guide to writing poetry (The Ode Less Travelled, 2005), a collection of his journalism, broadcasts and occasional writings (Paperweight, 1992) and of course the first volume of his memoirs (Moab is my Washpot, 2000).
Not that it stops there.
A regular blogger, Fry has written technology reviews for The Guardian (he claims never to have seen a smartphone he hasn’t bought and that he snapped up the second Apple Macintosh sold in the UK, running a close second to Douglas Adams), screenplays including that of the upcoming Peter Jackson re-make of The Dam Busters, the libretto for a production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and frankly I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that he writes a regular column on Rock Gardens for a Tokyo daily in irreproachable kanji.
In Moab is my Washpot readers got a glimpse of the intensely troubled young man who (I’m being quite serious) was booted out of a series of schools, struggled to come to terms with his homosexuality, and ended up in the slammer after going on a shopping spree with credit cards subsequently found to be embossed with names not matching his own.
Not, one might have thought, the foundation for the glittering career adumbrated above.
Moab closes as Fry is about to enter Cambridge University (where he is now an honorary fellow of Queens’ College), having – somehow – got his life back into some sort of order. I confidently predict that one of the delights awaiting us all when the next volume of reminiscences hits the shelves (it’s due at the publishers in manuscript form in April, so a bit of a wait there…) will be the account of how a burgeoning friendship with Hugh Laurie vouchsafed us one of the most fertile comedy partnerships of the past 50 years.
On the darker side, we might expect Fry’s own take on his complete breakdown in 1995, when he walked out of the play Cell Mates, tried to commit suicide and then (again, I’m not joking) disappeared for about a week before being run to ground in Belgium.
I, for one, can’t wait.