By D.A. Ball
Updated March 10, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

”[W]e live in arse-paralysingly drear times,” sulks failed poet Ted Wallace, the protagonist of this near-perfect book, The Hippopotamus, which happens to be the most entertaining, worthwhile antidote to drear you’ll ever find. Heavy-boozing Ted is a London drama critic until he’s fired for shouting insults at a bad play on opening night. His next job involves investigating miraculous cures at a countryside estate. Fry’s British best-seller slides effortlessly from reality to first-rate farce to absorbing mystery to shocking filth (yes, you will be shocked, and you’ll love it even if you gag) to mysticism to stirring wisdom, and then it all comes crashing brilliantly back to reality. Fry (who plays the jilted fiancé in the film I.Q. and the first half of the title role on Masterpiece Theatre’s Jeeves and Wooster) might well and deservingly become one of your favorite authors. A+