Ave atque Vale

Well now, this is a sort of farewell. An au revoir more than an adieu but a valediction all the same. This morning I switch off most of my connections with the outside world, for I have work to do. I must deliver a book to my publishers by the end of April or my soul and testicles will be forfeit.

Some people can write with ease in whatever circumstances they find themselves. Up a tree, on a bus, in a log cabin, a steamy-windowed café or a tropical beach. Some don’t mind noise, distraction or a broken up day. I, unhappily, am not made of this material. I need peace, absolute peace, an empty diary and zero distraction. I enter a kind of writing purdah, an eremitical seclusion in which there is just me, a keyboard and abundant cups of coffee, all in a room whose curtains have been drawn against the light. I would have added tobacco as a constant and necessary companion, but I stopped smoking some two and half years ago, so no longer will there be the pleasure of having a pipe clamped between the teeth as I grope for the Flaubertian mot juste.

I have a single appointment in London towards the end of January and another in Barcelona a month or so later. Otherwise I shall be as one wiped from the map of human existence. This is how it must be.

All this is a way of saying, of course, that my twitter stream will dry up for that period. No doubt this will come as a relief to some, but I am not so sunk in false modesty as to be unaware that there are loyal followers who will emit long, loud wails of “Noooooooo!” and who will feel pained and dispirited . But I hope they will understand that this is a) imperative and b) temporary. I shall return.

And what of this book? Twelve years ago I wrote a volume of autobiography called Moab Is My Washpot. It is essentially a memoir of childhood and adolescence and ends after our hero is released from prison and contrives, with a year’s probation still to run, to get himself a place at university. The book I must now write will follow on from this. Whether it will be chronological or thematic, first person or third I have no idea. That is the adventure, if I can call it such, that lies before me. The loneliness of writing, or of my kind of writing at least, is absolute. The other week, the excellent @wishdasher tweeted me a line by Paul Tilich: “Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.” Whether my reclusive isolation will be painful or glorious remains to be seen. Accept my apologies for what must be and believe me, no one yearns more keenly for the day when I will be able to be back amongst you all.


This blog was posted in General and Miniblog

327 comments on “Ave atque Vale”

  1. Gazweasel says:

    I, too, wondered where you’d got to. Watching the Delia Smith bio thing on TV this week reminded me that I’d not seen you tweet for yonks. Good luck with the book and looking forward to your return…just like everyone else!


  2. barrywad says:

    congrats on the NTA awards stephen, but i do have a kind of unrelated but yet related question, when your were being interviewed a tall white haired man was with you, i do believe he is actually a relative of mine from a city in ireland known as waterford , now i could have been very mistaken , as i have been on a number of occassions in my life to date.
    please confirm my request ,
    yours forever laughing with and not at,
    barry wadding

    ps. your depression programme has helped me with my life and with the help of QI i hope to keep laughing for ever more…………without the use of meds, lol

  3. davidb says:

    Well done last night

    A beautiful person in a ugly world.

  4. Flixor says:

    A sequel to Moab? YES! Awesome and everything! Drop everything else and work on it nonstop, I officially can’t wait for it to come out. Moab was great support 2 years ago and since I am now entering the stage of life where Moab left off I must say I am very eager to read what and how youve experienced and developed :)

    Also, might you somehow read this, I am interested to know whether you’ve heard of Hans Teeuwen? Him and a few others of the Comedytrain, based in Amsterdam, have recently led an expidition into the London circuit and apparently met with great reviews too, so I was wondering if the extent of him and their success was as far to have reached your ears, and maybe your eyes? I would love to hear your opinion on him :) Cheers and of course good luck with all endeavours!

  5. Steff says:

    Shhhh, I am only whispering, don’t want to disturb genius at work but has anyone made Stephen a cup of tea or made him a little snack?

  6. Esther Brazil says:

    ‘Moab Is My Washpot’ is one of my absolute favourites – I can’t wait to read, mark, and inwardly digest what will no doubt be a lovely sequel. Goodspeed, young Fry! xxx

  7. mink says:

    My comment is not in response to your most recent post – rather, I’ve wanted to thank you for your writing of, “The Ode Less Travelled”. Have been teaching Year 7 students (12 and 13 yo) English and in this, my fourth year, finally felt brave enough to ‘teach’ them poetry. My husband had bought me the Ode…. in my first year of teaching, thinking that it would be useful. Too scared to look at it till I was already brave enough to take the plunge with the students.
    I started the book and loved it, and found that I couldn’t use it as my going-to-sleep book as I got too excited! So I had the joy of sharing with my students iambic pentameters, tetrameters and trimeters, and writing a ballad. (As you can see by this, I only got into the first part of the book, but this was stacks to work with and had wonderful results.)
    When I was a secondary school student, I was encouraged, and loved writing, poetry, but as this was in the 60’s, it was all in the ‘go with the flow’ spirit, which I embraced. Writing poetry, (and playing the recorder) was what kept me sane as an adolescent.
    I had no idea how I would teach poetry, or what ‘form’ I would teach, but I knew that what had worked for me and my best friend 40 years ago was probably not going to work today. I didn’t want to ‘do’ diamond poems or haiku or acrostic poems, as the students tend to have done these to death at primary school. I wanted to extend them, but I wanted them to understand that poetry wasn’t ‘just about rhyme’.
    And then I had the pleasure of working with the idea that it is about meter.
    One day I’d like to look at my adolescent poems in relation to meter, but what was brilliant for me was seeing kids being excited and writing wonderful poems with depth of feeling and image, funny, desolate, beautiful, silly, mundane, bizarre, warm – as they played with different metric forms. It seemed to give them a freedom to write, and I certainly encouraged them to just ‘go with the flow’, but having a metric flow to create a structure! It was particularly noteworthy among the boys who went from having no clue at all what a poem should look or sound like, to being able to write poetry.
    I’m not teaching English this year. (I’m a French teacher as well, and this year that’s the focus). But I’m looking forward to teaching it again, and working with the Stephen Fry method of teaching poetry, cos I know it works! I have of course spread the name of the book amongst my fellow teachers… Again, many thanks.

  8. Ginger von Ricken says:

    Poke your head above the parapit every once in a while, if only to take in a breath of normality. Good luck with your endeavours.

  9. jimjim1968 says:

    I love you.

    Hurry back soon. The pikelets are getting cold.

  10. Amayasenpai says:

    I’ll be in deep mourning until you come back, Mr. Fry. But a sequel to Moab is more than I could ever hope for! Moab was a wonderful book. Even though I haven’t gotten my hands on a physical copy, I listened to the audiobook with great pleasure. It may even have been better, since I love the sound of your voice as much as your writing. Hope you come back to us soon!

  11. prvincent says:

    It looks wonderful – and if I didn’t already own a MacBook Pro, I’d seriously consider going for an iPad instead. However, I think you’re missing a fundamental issue with the thing: how do you make it part of your daily life? With an iMac, the answer’s easy: you go to your desk and use it. MacBook? Carry it around in a laptop bag slung over your shoulder for use in wifi hotspots (or offline anywhere). iPhone? Easiest of all: carry it in your pocket like any other phone-sized mobile device. But the iPad? Its size means carrying it in a small laptop bag. Heck, not just its size: its fragility! That glass screen means dropping it is a game-over situation, so a padded shoulder bag is essential. Which means it fits exactly the same-shaped hole in your daily life as a laptop. Fabulous screen interface notwithstanding, it’s too similar to a lidless laptop to justify owning both an iPad AND a MacBook. I mean, if I didn’t already own a MacBook, it would be nooooooo contest. And THAT’s why I don’t see me buying one until it’s time to retire the MacBook.

  12. lexdysia says:

    iWorked iMac; iTuned iPod; iLoved iPhone; and i’llBe iPad
    – Don’t dis-believe the hype.

  13. deltheillustrator says:

    More autobiography? F*ck yeah!

  14. deltheillustrator says:

    By the way, I just registered to say I’ve read only the very earliest parts of “The Ode Less Travelled” and I can already comprehend that poetry is this continent-sized electrified panda that’s been standing invisibly next to me my whole life, wondering if he can put his arm round me.

    Nice one.

  15. Pamsy says:

    Hello Stephen, I am new to this but I have adored you for many years from afar…After reading one of your newer novels I knew I wouldn’t be bumping in to you in my remote area so I forged your name on the first blank page..I passed the book on to my sister, she phoned excitedly asking me how I got you to sign the book…when I revealed the truth she howled laughing and we still laugh over it but who knows what reader holding that book today is thinking..ha…I guess that’s the scouser in me..born and bred in Bootle, a part of Liverpool England…

    I want to say you write like DICKENS…I mean the author and of course the dexterity of it all ha ha

    Oh, trying your weight loss diet also…

  16. hifromSA says:

    Hope you’ve achieved great feats during your period of self-imposed exile… If you get any blocks – give us a hoy (you never know where your muse may be – joking right).

  17. jonhounslow says:

    I cant wait to enjoy the latest creation , a book tour of australia would be very much appriciated ( a vist to Kambalda would also be great )

  18. oseric says:

    I still can’t get the failed Apple Newton out of my head. And only now, in writing this, have realised the correlation between apples and Newtons and gravity theories.

    is this one of those connections that everyone else made in the 90’s?

  19. Adrian Smith says:

    No SD Memory Card. Grrr!!!

    Defiantly a revolutionary development and I can’t wait to buy one. The first ones will not accept not accept SD cards though. I’m going to wait for a while.

  20. sheetal says:

    I hope the writing’s going well, because I miss you already. Be back soon. The world needs you.

  21. wolvie_spider says:

    I know what you mean… peace, silence, nobody breathes – ideal circumstands for writing. The world is full of things that diverts from writing. The best thing before: throw the TV out of the window, cut the internet-cable and throw away all interesting things out of my reach.

    The best moment ever is when you full in the story / whatever you write and nothing around cut the line. You just swim and the words come from the ground of the sea. The only thing you must do is to grab and used them.

    I wished you all good for the next book. I`ll look forward it.
    Best wishes!

  22. Frank H says:

    I registered so that I could comment to you (hoping you’ll read it). I’ve just read your delightful, deliciously amusing, and downright conversational article in Time magazine. I could hear your wry humor speak to me as I read your words. Your every communication demonstrates your remarkable talent, whether it is the intriguing butler, psychiatrist turned chef, the adroit reader of J.K. Rowling’s magnificent prose, or the brother-from-across-the-pond admirer of many things American. Thank you Stephen, thank you so much for just being who you are. “Absolutely brilliant!”

  23. shellymcbean says:

    I am very interested to read the next book you have install for us.

    As somebody commented earlier, they found your programme on depression helpful, as did I when a friend from University was admitted into hospital, he was Bipolar which none of us even saw coming! Unfortunately not long after he was released he committed suicide. I am just finishing University at the moment, but , one of my next tasks is hopefully to get involved with charities and events management. One of the things that is constantly on my mind is my dear friend Andy Duff and the lack of support I think he got when suffering with Bipolar. So Mr Fry if you do read this and you ever feel like you could spare some of your time for a charitable event sponsoring something like MIND I would be much obliged to hear from you!! You certainly helped me understand what my friend was going through at the time and thank you for that time, hopefully I did make my friend Andy’s day a little brighter whilst he was in hospital.

    Kind Regards


  24. olivertWisted says:

    Oh, Yes!
    Moab is the book i like so much!
    Was starved for continuation.
    & hope we’ll read it soon.
    Bet wishes from Russia!

  25. kitincal says:

    Living just outside Los Angeles I have to say that the city is indeed spread out and poorly served by public transport.Walking is not much of an option unless you have the stamina of a marathon runner because so many places of interest (Major attractions) are miles away from each other. Having said that, If you select an area and stay within the boundaries there are a multitude of delightful eateries, tucked away stores and interesting architecture to keep you occupied for the day. As for the weather – L.A wins hands down.

  26. Jeffrey.Puukka says:

    There are many, many great artists I’m aware of for whom it is necessary to go underground in order to do their best work. Try to enjoy it while it lasts. I hope you don’t miss the pipe too much. You have both my sympathies and my congratulations for giving up smoking. I hope the lack of all things smoky does not create a distracting gap in the conditions, requirements, or intricacies of your process. Humans are capable of adapting or retraining themselves to do pretty much anything, but still, it would probably be extremely difficult for me. On a related note, I am somewhat of a pipe ‘enthusiast’, and it would be interesting to know what your favorite tobacco blends were. Although, it’s not exactly an applicable subject any longer.

    All the best of wishes, I am looking forward to what’s coming.

  27. ayeshawysha says:

    Can’t wait to get my hands on sequel to Moab. When oh when is it out. I miss you stephen. I met you at a book signing a long time ago when you had just done the film of the Evelyn Waugh book. And when I gave you my name you said “she who must be obeyed”. This was amazing because my mother named me ‘cos she was reading the Rider Haggard book when I was born!

    Can I ask about the amazing weight loss? Does anyone know wht it was. Going to the gym? Not eating? Tell me please. I have about a stone and a half to lose and I go to the gym 4 times a week and do yoga and power plate and no carbs after 5pm. And I havent lost nearly as much as youe. HELP PLEEESE!

    And please keep me posted as to any appearances in the near future.

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