Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"Oh, lord love you, Stephen. How I admire your arrogance and rage and misery. How pure and righteous they are and how passionately storm-drenched was your adolescence."
April 30, 2009 10:19 PM   Subscribe

Long before becoming a national treasure and celebrity Twitter addict the 16 year old Stephen Fry sent a letter to his future self, to which he has now responded, in a letter first published in the 25th birthday edition of Gay Times.
posted by Artw (36 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Lots of previously
posted by Artw at 10:20 PM on April 30, 2009


Anyone who doesn't watch his program Q.I. is seriously missing out.

You know what would be awesome?
A full-length feature film of just Stephen Fry and Alex Trebek chatting over coffee about fantastically obscure and interesting trivia.
posted by nightchrome at 10:26 PM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I must be the only person in the world who doesn't like QI.

It's not that I don't like Stephen. I love him and he *is* a national treasure, but QI is so obviously one of those standard Radio 4 quiz programmes that are all about showing off the talent of the guests rather than about the answers that get given. And they work fine on Radio 4. Nobody could like 'I'm sorry, I haven't a clue', 'The News Quiz', 'Just a minute', etc.

But I don't really want to look at them doing nothing while they talk, I'm afraid. Never Mind the Buzzcocks could have easily fallen into this same category, but it's redeemed by the whole 'Name that Tune' segment, which is perfect television. It also used to be redeemed by Mark Lamaar's bits as well, but thats less true since he's been replaced.

Anyway, let me be the first and last to say it.

QI? Meh...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:02 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ick. That last line in para 3. should have read:

Nobody could like 'I'm sorry, I haven't a clue', 'The News Quiz', 'Just a minute', etc. more than I do.

Oh, for that 3 minute editing pony.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:04 PM on April 30, 2009


That was...lovely, really. Cheesy way to describe it, but the letter was fantastic and such a great thing to read.
posted by aclevername at 11:20 PM on April 30, 2009


Stephen!
posted by greycap at 11:26 PM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't complain if there were daily Stephen Fry posts. He's an international treasure, by my watch. I really need to get the Stephen Fry talking clock one day.
posted by crossoverman at 11:30 PM on April 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yep I agree about QI, dull and up its own, but I don't know why it doesn't work. HIGNFY was also a radio 4 quiz once, but it works much better on TV even these days, perhaps because it often brings on guests who are there to be shot at.
posted by criticalbill at 12:07 AM on May 1, 2009


As I mentioned in another thread, I'm reading Moab is my Washpot right now, and haven't quite got to the letter he wrote himself, I'll look forward to it.

I'm enjoying the book immensely, especially at how frank it is and how, despite the fact that I'm straight and he's not, his adolescent loves and desires mimic what mine were at the same age--and why wouldn't they be, on a moment's thought?

The linked letter back to himself is thoughtful and exactly what I would expect from the man.

I'm also surprised at the extent of the same-sex, non-homosexual sex play in the book. I'm mainly surprised because I didn't have any, and not through raging homophobia or anything, perhaps it was just the friends I ran with. It didn't stop me from imaging (over and over and over and over) all of my female contemporaries getting up to that stuff. Please don't burst my imaginary bubble, my adolescent self is using needs it.
posted by maxwelton at 12:09 AM on May 1, 2009


I listened to the audiobook version of Moab is My Washpot - which was excellent, by the way - and I don't recall there being a letter. *pouts, sulks, goes to library to find book version*
posted by Xere at 12:53 AM on May 1, 2009


Coolest gets cooler.
posted by Samizdata at 2:22 AM on May 1, 2009


Stephen Fry is - in all certainty - the only man I could spend time watching get choked up at a college football game in Alabama and not hold him in some measure of contempt.

Anyone who saw his whole "Stephen Fry in America" special will know exactly what I'm talking about.
posted by Hickeystudio at 2:49 AM on May 1, 2009


Just don't follow him on twitter unless you want to know what he had for lunch. The man is seriously dull in the 140 character format.
posted by srboisvert at 2:53 AM on May 1, 2009


Just coming!
posted by ComfySofa at 3:01 AM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, for that 3 minute editing pony.

No, I liked it best the first way.
posted by ninebelow at 4:17 AM on May 1, 2009


crossoverman I have it, it sometimes goes off in the middle of the night without being set to and its almost still worth it...
posted by Molesome at 4:18 AM on May 1, 2009


No, I liked it best the first way.

OK, it's not so much like, more have an affection for -- the same way that you'd have an affection for your irascible old gran who sits in the corner, farting and making racist remarks.

You shouldn't really like her, but she's been part of your life for so long that it's hard not to have that perverse affection that you've developed despite your best attempts not to do so.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:42 AM on May 1, 2009


It also used to be redeemed by Mark Lamaar's bits as well, but thats less true since he's been replaced.

Simon Amstell has also left now, so maybe the next replacement will be more to your liking.
posted by smackfu at 6:08 AM on May 1, 2009


> Just don't follow him on twitter unless you want to know what he had for lunch.

Just don't follow *anyone* on twitter. It has got to be the most inane, ridiculous, annoying, pathetic, useless, trivial, unprofitable, frustrating utilization of technology since the dawn of time.

And I'm including the USB vibrator in that statement.

I abhor it with every fibre of my being.
posted by Mephisto at 6:21 AM on May 1, 2009


Stephen Fry evokes such mixed feelings from me, and I think that letter embodies all of them. On the one hand, he's sometimes so deeply right ("the towering question of love"), and then on the other hand he's sometimes so deeply wrong ("knowing how to feel is more important than how you feel"). Yes, life is love; yes, the sentence "You spend all your time in the library yearning to be told that you are not alone" hits spot in the middle of my memories of adolescence and my 16 year old self. But then lamenting that he hasn't stayed in a world where "pain is beautiful" - I'm sorry, but that's shit. There's nothing about hurt that makes it better than happiness, and I think it's a sad, cruel statement to make.

There's a culture even now of misery, of "shame and secrecy," a culture that glorifies the martyr. And I think it's dangerous. It's dangerous because it tells the disaffected youth that their place is one of suffering, that being the oppressed minority is the way it's meant to be, that becoming happy is abandonment of reality in favor of falseness and pretense.

Maybe for some that's true. But there are plenty of queer teens, transgender teens, teens who just feel different from their peers - there are plenty of those kids who can grow up to be happy. There are plenty of them who can grow into themselves, who can find their place to fit in the world without sacrificing their integrity or their uniqueness or their ability to feel. I consider myself one of them.

So I reject the idea that "if there is one thing happiness can do it is mask deadness of soul." I reject it vehemently. If there is one thing happiness can do it is bring your soul to life.
posted by marginaliana at 6:44 AM on May 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is my favorite part:

"Gay people sometimes believe (to this very day, would you credit it, young Stephen?) that the preponderance of obstacles and terrors they encounter in their lives and relationships is intimately connected with the fact of their being gay. As it happens at least 90% of their problems are to do with love and love alone: the lack of it, the denial of it, the inequality of it, the missed reciprocity in it, the horrors and heartaches of it. Love cold, love hot, love fresh, love stale, love scorned, love missed, love denied, love betrayed ... the great joke of sexuality is that these problems bedevil straight people just as much as gay. The 10% of extra suffering and complexity that uniquely confronts the gay person is certainly not incidental or trifling, but it must be understood that love comes first."

I've learned the same thing as I've aged. Less gracefully than Fry, I think of it this way: we're animals and we do everything we can to deny this fact. We can deny that we're animals, but we can't stave off the effects of our animal natures.

What drives us is love, hunger, sex, fear, etc. Whenever I read questions on AskMe that say things like "I recently dropped out of the Church and I don't know how to live in a universe without meaning," I think, "That's not your real problem. Your REAL problem is that you're lonely or scared." Recently, there was an AskMe in which a woman figured she couldn't find love because her father left her when she was little. As if all of us with loyal fathers had no trouble at all finding love.

We're animals. What makes us human is the veneer of lies we use to hide our animal nature. Some of this veneer is necessary for culture. I suppose.
posted by grumblebee at 6:50 AM on May 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


QI is so obviously one of those standard Radio 4 quiz programmes that are all about showing off the talent of the guests rather than about the answers that get given

This is entirely true, but when it produces moments like this, I'm not complaining.
posted by permafrost at 6:52 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just don't follow *anyone* on twitter.

I disagree. Twitter is worth it for Shawn Elliot's pseudo-blog. Former editor at CGW/GFW Magazine, every day or so he gathers a collection of weblinks simultaneously awful and interesting, with a dash of cute cat thrown in.

Links are not for the faint at heart.
posted by graventy at 6:52 AM on May 1, 2009


'Stephen Fry in America' video clips.
posted by ericb at 7:43 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm the world's biggest Shawn Elliot fan and even that will not motivate me to participate in the world-wide cocksuck that is Twitter. Put Twitter up your shitter.
posted by autodidact at 8:35 AM on May 1, 2009


People Try Twitter One Month, Then Fly
"It's good to know I am not alone: Many other people use Twitter a few times and can't think of a good reason to come back. With all the hype about Twitter's 140-character version of living, I'd gotten the impression that I'm the only one on Twitter who doesn't get why Twitter matters.

Not so, according to Nielsen data that shows 60 percent of people who use Twitter one month, even at its peak popularity, don't come back the next. While it used to be that 70 stayed away that improvement is not much to brag about--Twitter's customer retention is prone to peaks and valleys."
posted by ericb at 8:40 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not to derail this thread (Stephen Fry is one of my favourite people), but twitter is complete pants.

I don't care what you had for breakfast.
I don't care if you're having a shit.
I don't care if you're bored at/during/after a meeting.
I don't care about any of the inane, trivial, boring details of your life that, for some God-forsaken reason, you feel impelled to tell me.
And, I'm sorry to say Stephen, I don't care if you're stuck in a lift.

What is rather more shocking to me, is that many people feel, I must assume, their lives are so empty than they actually *subscribe* to these "twits" (or is it twitter feeds?) VOLUNTARILY!

I would simply rather stick needles in my eyes.
posted by Mephisto at 8:48 AM on May 1, 2009


Go on Mephisto, tell us how you really feel...
posted by nightchrome at 8:52 AM on May 1, 2009


Ok, I hate Twitter as much as the next guy, but saying that people subscribe to Twitter feeds because their lives are empty is the same kind of balls argument that people own guns because they're "so full of fear".
posted by adamdschneider at 9:01 AM on May 1, 2009


Why all the Twitter trolls? This is about Stephen Fry. Take it outside; no one's forcing you to use Twitter.
posted by Songdog at 10:07 AM on May 1, 2009


If I were gay, I'd be in love with Stephen Fry. Shit, I even joined Twitter just to follow his tweets. He's one of the few truly and genuinely good people who also happens to be a massive celebrity. God bless Stephen Fry.
posted by shmegegge at 10:15 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


sorry to continue the twitter derail. I was really just trying to say something nice about Stephen Fry. I hadn't noticed the derail before I posted. sorry.
posted by shmegegge at 10:16 AM on May 1, 2009


...problems are to do with love and love alone: the lack of it, the denial of it, the inequality of it, the missed reciprocity in it, the horrors and heartaches of it.

I read Moab Is My Washpot when I was 18. I had just finished my first year at university, was desperately in love with a girl who barely knew I existed, and was a raging mess inside while I attempted to process these feelings that had suddenly bubbled to the surface. And then I read what Fry had to say about his own attempts to do so, and I realised the truth about Voltaire's expression about quoting others only to better express oneself. The paperback copy I had fell to bits over a summer as I read and re-read it. I also started devouring the authors Fry recommended: Wilde, E.M. Forster, and so on, and I wrote down everything I was feeling. It's more than a decade later now and somewhere at my parents' house there is that fallen to bits copy of Moab Is My Washpot, and a diary of sorts where I wrote everything I was feeling down.

I haven't re-read either of them since that summer.

I cringe when I think about what must be in that diary but I will never for a second stop being thankful to Stephen Fry for starting my interest in English literature, and for helping me to feel not entirely alone that summer.
posted by greycap at 4:01 PM on May 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


You know what would be awesome? A full-length feature film of just Stephen Fry and Alex Trebek chatting over coffee about fantastically obscure and interesting trivia.

I disagree. Stephen Fry is practically encyclopedic with an eclectic range of knowledge that often seems to dip into the archaic and esoteric; I mean, he's brilliant. I've been watching Jeopardy! for over twenty years, and I can safely say that Stephen Fry and Alex Trebeck are certainly not equal minds. The latter is a blowhard with a bunch of cue cards behind his podium.
posted by Mael Oui at 9:29 PM on May 1, 2009


Mael Oui: The other participant is largely there just to keep Stephen from getting bored, so if you have a better suggestion...
Seriously Hollywood, get on this.
posted by nightchrome at 10:07 PM on May 1, 2009


Stephen Fry shoots a .44 Magnum
posted by homunculus at 1:31 PM on May 4, 2009


« Older One Hundred Years, One Hundred Scores....   |   iSnort... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments