am 19. Oktober 1999
If you're considering the purchase of this novel because of its author's portrayal of Jeeves in Masterpiece Theater's productions of Jeeves and Wooster, be warned! You may wish to reconsider. Whereas Stephen Fry's writing style may pay homage to the late great P.G. Wodehouse in its verbal effluence, his chosen main character, Ted, or Tedward as one character calls him, is a far, far cry from the irreproachable and virtually infallible "gentleman's personal gentleman" that was Jeeves. He is a grumpy, flatulent ex-poet who has become disillusioned with . . . well, just about everything really. One is left wondering how much Mr. Fry shares this man's opinions for they are at once outrageously cynical, overtly snobbish and-at least in the case of his diagnosis of male sexuality-devastatingly accurate. Such questions are of course ultimately futile and meaningless but one can't help wondering. To be honest, however, few of us couldn't find at least a little of ourselves in this crotchety old fart. And I suppose that's what makes him ultimately so endearing.
In short, this is a dirty, smutty book chock full of outrageous social faux pas, cynicism, sacrilege, irreverence, vulgarity and crudeness . . . and I enjoyed it very much. It's extremely well written, extremely frank in its discussion of human sexuality and the evils of opulent interior design, and above all extremely British.
So, if you're after the genteel machinations of the upper class twits of yesteryear, stick with the source and pull out that trusty old copy of Jeeves and Wooster. If, on the other hand, you're after a healthy dose of modern English outrageousness, this would be a good bet. Pour yourself a glass of whisky and get ready to read the juicy bits to whoever's close by, because you'll be hearing a lot of, "What? What was it this time?" from them. Oh, yes, it's also good for the complexion. I read it on my last visit to the seaside and couldn't stop reading long enough to get into my swimwear. The sun never touched my pearly white skin. Saved a bundle on sunscreen, too.
am 22. Februar 2000
THE HIPPOPOTAMUS is the second and best of Stephen Fry's three novels. If you have read and enjoyed THE LIAR or MAKING HISTORY you will adore this book. If you enjoyed THE LIAR but were frustrated by it's poorly contrived ending you just may want to make love to THE HIPPOPOTAMUS. Fry's wit is razor sharp yet hearty, his humor will slap you in the face and then give you a hug. It is rare these days to stop reading just because you have to laugh so hard, then sit quietly for a moment pondering the art, craft or trick of genius that made you laugh so hard before laughing again. Fry is an artist, a craftsman, and a supremely clever rhetorician with quite a few tricks up his sleeve.
Fry's protagonist here is much the different fellow from the twentyish Adrian Healey of THE LIAR. Ted Wallace is sixty-six years old, "an unregenerate snob," and a once notable and occasionally anthologized minor poet, whose physical form in motion "resembles in sight and sound nothing so much as a bin-liner full of yoghurt." His mental form has not been all it's cracked up to be either, the story opens with his dismissal with cause from his theatre reviewing job: he was shouting out his criticisms while the performance was still in progress. Just when it looks like malt whiskey-induced cirrhosis can't be far down the road, his long-lost goddaughter offers him a chance at redemption. A chance he'd never take were it not for the hefty check she gives him to perform the task from which the rest of the book derives it suspense--visiting the summer house of his other godchild, younger son of an incredibly rich and powerful former British army reserve buddy, and reporting back on the mystical goings on there. And what twisted fun we have accompanying him on this summer in the high country!
As a story, THE HIPPOPOTAMUS demonstrates a handsome integration of the accidental and the intentional. It is happily free from contrivance, and is made all the more hilarious and alive by its being written, for the most part, in letter form. Fry also finds a few well-placed moments to proclaim his own theory of art: "It is the only thing that not only cannot be disproved, but can actually and tangibly and incontrovertibly proved." Damn the psychotherapists, priests and druids all to Vienna, Hell, and Avalon--give a man Shakespeare and he will be saved!
Fry's style is richly allusive and admirably erudite. It also savagely satirizes its own pretentiousness. Fry has it both ways and knows it--not a bad trick. THE HIPPOPOTAMUS is both bestial fun and glorious art. If you can handle both, this book is simply not to be missed.
am 23. Juli 1999
Reading this excellent novel while on a train I was more than once scolded by a fellow passenger for laughing out loud too often! Apparently my 'laugh count' was at least 3 laughs per minute. Now considering that I very seldom laugh out loud while reading I think this proves what an exceptionally funny book Fry's "Hippopotamus" must be.
Indeed, at no point in the book was I bored. Fry successfully managed to keep even the long necessary narrative passages, in which nothing of relavance happens, interesting by using cynical remarks, sparky anecdotes and constant change of perspective. Although the protagonist is seemingly "an old, sour, womanising, cantankerous, whiskey-sodden beast of a failed poet and drama critic" (taken from the back cover) he immediately becomes sympathetic to the reader because of his outrageous honesty (he was fired from his post as a drama critic for shouting out what he thought of the play he was watching). He uncovers the hypocrisy of the others staying at Swafford Hall, who are all only there to find out more about David Logan, a 15-year-old rumoured to possess incredible healing powers. During his stay at the Logan's country house, Ted Wallace witnesses the remarkable recovery of a horse, whom (as the reader finds out) the mystical adolescent had had sexual contact with the night before (a scene, which even managed to shock me - and that is quite hard). But undeterred by this apparently supernatural experience, Ted, being the down-to-earth atheist that he is, refuses to believe what he sees.
"The Hippopotamus" is incredibly entertaining and must be recommended to the open-minded. Yet I must warn the more conservative of you that this book could make you want to exorcise Fry and burn him publicly!
am 28. April 1999
This novel simply screams Stephen Fry on every page, which can't be a bad thing. It genuinely caused me to laugh out loud which is increasingly uncommon in this day and age. I did not find the contents shocking, probably because I have long been a fan of Mr. Fry and his work and have come to expect such sexual references as we find in this book. 'The Hippopotamus' is certainly an absorbing read and Ted is a thoroughly convincing character. The socially embarrassing situations the various characters find themselves in are often shamefully familiar and Fry's ability to create personalities that are so easy to relate to, or dislike intensly is remarkable. Perhaps this is not a novel for the faint-hearted, but I would strongly recommend it to the more open minded, or those prepared to open their minds a little.
am 13. Juni 1996
"Second novels are the very devil," Stephen Fry once said about his latest concoction, "The Hippopotamus." It is definitely a departure from his first novel, "The Liar." The humor is not always so subtle, and you may find yourself actually laughing out loud while reading certain passages! This story revolves around Ted Wallace, a boozy, womanizing, oversexed ex-poet and drama critic who finds himself canned from his newspaper job and is quite obviously sore at the world for not appreciating his genius. This Mr. Wallace, who would like nothing more than a "quick shag in the shrubbery with a domestic," is offered a princely sum, enough to get back on his feet anyway, from a terminally ill woman (or so she claims) who wants Ted to spy on his godson's family. (Everyone is related in some fashion or another.) This godson supposedly has supernatural healing powers, and the woman wants to know if he can cure her. Ted's mission, (he chose to accept it), leads him to the family manor where he encounters the most bizarre family he has ever seen. And Ted, pompous as he is, thought he had seen it all! At this point the story sags a bit, and the New Age-y healer idea can be a bit much. Purportedly Stephen Fry is an agnostic, which explains the replacement of Divine Healing with the Boy Healer. But all things considered, "The Hippopotamus" remains very readable, and retains its humor until the end
Klar, Ted Wallace, der Erzähler, ist eine Art Vorgänger von Gregory House. Missgelaunt, menschenfeindlich, arrogant, taktlos... und gerade das macht das Buch so amüsant. Man merkt ziemlich schnell, dass sich hinter Teds ruppiger Fassade ein eigentlich ganz netter Kerl verbirgt, zumindest aber ein zutiefst ehrlicher und fairer Charakter, der "die Dinge" eben nur knallhart und schonungslos offen benennt, wobei er sich selbst auch nicht mit Kritik verschont.
Wegen dieser Ehrlichkeit wählt ihn seine durch ein Erbe wohlhabende Patentochter Jane aus, auf dem Landgut ihres Onkels Lord Logan Nachforschungen zu betreiben, denn dort gehen scheinbar unerklärbare, ja, magische Dinge vor sich. Ted, chronisch klamm nach seinem letzten Jobverlust, nimmt den Job an.
Bei Lord Logan trifft er zunächst eine ganze Versammlung seltsamer Bekannter an, die alle mit einer bestimmten Absicht dort zu sein scheinen, Ted wird aber nicht eingeweiht. So versucht er, seinen Besuch hinauszuzögern, um etwas herumzuschnüffeln. Unter dem Vorwand, Lord Logans Biographie schreiben zu wollen, kommt er mit seinem alten Freund näher ins Gespräch und lange zurückliegende Familiengeschichten haben schließlich einen überraschenden Einfluss auf die Gegenwart.
Mehr sollte man nicht verraten. Nur, dass dies ein Buch ist, dass Skeptiker herrlich und Esoteriker vielleicht schrecklich finden werden. Denn am Ende...
am 3. April 1998
Hot on the heels of 'The Liar', 'The Hippopotamus' is written in a completely different vein. Where Fry might once have been accused of marketing a doctored version of his past, there is nothing to be seen in 'Hippo' save for his barbed wit and wicked creativity. Here is a novel within a novel, written by a whisky-sodden, cantankerous git with too much in his mind and not enough in his sexlife. Lurching forth into an unfriendly world with a planetary-sized chip on his shoulder, Ted Wallace meets his goddaughter, the first link in a chain of increasingly extraordinary and seemingly inexplicable events. A restful stay at the mansion of a friend results in strange discoveries and apparently miraculous healings.
Attracted by rumors of faith healing, a hilariously wholesome and varied gathering of would-be patients converge at the manor house, leaving misanthropic Ted at his least pleasant, and Fry at his most scintillating. A mildly shocking interlude leads the way to the gripping climax of a family argument, ending at last in the explosion of the healing myth, and the cynical vindication of the hippopotamus.
Far easier to follow (and dare I say, better?) than 'The Liar', 'Hippo' is the literary equivalent of a foot massage: with the author's brilliant, yet readily accessible brand of humor, the reader does no work and simply sits back to enjoy that supplied by Fry.
am 23. März 1998
After the quasi-autobiographical sprawl of The Liar, Stephen Fry comes in this book much closer to the mark. Where The Liar had smart-arse remarks and blatant schoolboy grossness, The Hippopotamus delivers a much more sophisticated and ultimately funnier brand of mayhem. I would truly hate to cross Fry, as he has an almost supernatural gift for invective, as well as a scarifying wit. Those who have read Paperweight will also know that he has learnt the enviable traits of commonsense and tolerance. Above all, he displays in this book the imagination and linguistic bravado that is the real reason he has so many devoted followers. Ted Wallace acts as so many of us wish we could - with total indulgence of himself, and of others. We snigger at his failings as much as at his jibes. The accompanying characters are as colourful as could be hoped, and the frenetic pace is continued more or less up to the end. It is common in these sort of "comic novels" that they begin in a blaze of satire, and peter out after 100 pages or so (Barry Humphreys' Women in the Background or Adrian Edmonson's The Gobbler are but two examples) and it is with relief that I can say The Hippopotamus is not among their number. I had a very indulgent laugh with it!!!
am 8. Juni 1997
Stephen Fry's first book, THE LIAR, was a tour-de-force, meaning, mostly, that you really had to work to figure out what the hell was actually happening. With THE HIPPOPOTAMUS, he eschews the trickery and concentrates on terrific characters and plotting. I think he must have taken a great deal of satisfaction in building his book around a Very Big Surprise midway through-- even though you *know* a V.B.S. is coming, and even though you can probably guess the general shape of the V.B.S., I don't think *anybody* reading this book for the first time can fail to be shocked/horrified/amused/delighted/amazed when he/she finds out what that V.B.S. actually *is*. Up to that point, the book sort of meanders pleasantly, but from then on, it hits high speed, bouncing between 1st and 3rd person narrators, the occasional RASHOMON-ing of scenes through different viewpoints, and a now-you-see-it, now-you-don't ending that ranks with the best mystery writers-- pretty good for a book that isn't a mystery! For those who don't know, Fry is a wildly talented comic actor (JEEVES & WOOSTER, BLACK ADDER); he's one of those annoying Englishmen who apparently does *everything* well. If he keeps turning out novels like this one, I'm prepared to forgive him
am 8. Januar 1999
Stephen Fry's The Liar was merely a stepping stool to this hilarious account of the jaded, wordly poet and his ridiculous enviornment. Fry is not only a superb actor, but an awesome author as well.