20 January 2010

Collected Short Stories Vol 1 Somerset Maugham

First Published in: 1951

There are some writers who once you sample their works, you cannot give up until you have covered a fair share of it. With Somerset Maugham, the challenge is both thrilling as well daunting. Thrilling because here is an author I am so happy I discovered and with whom I almost feel a kindred spirit - in terms of the themes he takes up and his so called cynicism - which is really not cynicism, but a certain astounding ability to discern human weaknesses. He's realistic about people, knowing well that human beings are inconsistent and complex. Also, he realizes that seemingly incongruous traits can exist in the same person. This prevents Maugham from either eulogizing a person too much or berating their depravity. According to Maugham, he could never judge anyone too harshly or be too shocked by sin, precisely because he was guilt-ridden about many things himself and understood only too well that perfection is a myth and that we all live extremely flawed lives. He said, “I take the goodness of the good for granted, and I am amused when I discover their defects or their vices. I am touched when I see the goodness of the wicked, and I am willing enough to shrug a tolerant shoulder at their wickedness.”

The above, in many ways, is the overarching theme of all his stories. The author gives voice to his own thoughts when one of his characters in The Fall of Edward Barnad says, "Perhaps we make too much of a difference between one man and another. Perhaps even the best of us are sinners and worst of us are saints"
His friend in the story is not willing to buy this argument and counters by saying, " You will never persuade me that white is black and black is white"
But almost every short story in this collection - and this quality applies to all the author's works in general - the writer points at the utter futility of catagorising people as good or bad, evil or virtuous. And to establish this truth, he puts his characters through all kinds of situations, delving deep into the recesses of their heart, acutely discerning their motives and the complex emotions that drive them.

There are about 30 stories in all, and each story is a wonder in character creation. And Maugham unfolds them with great relish, layer by layer – like the peeling of an onion. Many of them were written when he travelled far and wide – some of them were British colonies. Quite a few of the stories are based in London and are anecdotal . The Luncheon, Louise, The Promise, The Voice of the Turtle...all are delightful, and bristle with charm and ironic humour. There are some others which raise fundamental questions about religion, love and freedom.

As Maugham says in his book, The Summing Up, - themes came to him very easily. He could be talking to someone for an hour and he could envision a story revolving him. Such was the fecundity of his mind! Maugham’s characters are not entirely unusual, but they almost always have a quirk, which the author used to the fullest. He has a very fine sense of drama, so that you are always curious to know what happens next.
Mackintosh, for example, is a story that rests on his ability to sketch out the characters of the chief, Walter and his assistant, Mackintosh. The latter feels a strange mix of envy, hatred and derision for his boss. Walter is a loudmouth, a sadist, uncouth, but not without a roguish charm and a skill for repartee. He rules over the natives with an iron hand, but he also looks out for them like a tiger does for his cubs. Maugham is simply marvelous in his creation of these two persons.

Then there are other stories, where Maugham's skill with characters comes to the fore. The Mother is a poignant tale of a woman, who turns resentful and sullen after spending years in jail. Her only bundle of joy is her handsome son, whom she loves with a rare ferocity. But things go wrong again, and come to a tragic end.
The matriarch in Home is another gem of a creation. Equally enigmatic is the character of the laconic judge in The Happy Couple.

Maugham has written how he enjoyed the format of a short story, because he didn’t have to live with a story for too long. And yet, he believed that these stories no matter how small should be complete in themselves. He didn’t want any of them to trail off. This is partly a characteristic of Maugham’s writing – which is not only lucid, it never fails to make a point ever. This enables his stories to be engaging and dramatic. The flip side to this is that some of the endings to the stories appear too sudden and somewhat unconvincing . For example, in Rain – an otherwise powerful story about religion and its tyrannical propagators - it is never quite clear why the missionary Rev Davidson commits suicide. What are his motivations? The situation in the story and what you know of his character never lead you to believe what he does finally. Quite a few stories have an instance of a death or suicide at the end, but unfortunately, that decision at most times seems born out of the need for an ironic suggestion. You never quite understand why Mackintosh ends his life suddenly. Yes, human being are complex and contradict themselves often in action and words, yet, that can’t explain death/suicide so easily.

A few critics have also pointed towards racial undertones in a few of Maugham’s stories – one of them being The Pool. The story is about an English man, Lawson, an officer in the British colony of Apia. He falls in love with a beautiful native called Ethel and even marries her, much to the disapproval of the White community living there. But things don’t work as per his plans. He slowly loses his sway over the natives, has to bear the humiliation of working for a native owner. Seeing what a groveling lover he is, Ethel starts to despise him. The story ends with Lawson giving up his life, drowning himself in the Pool – the very place where he was first entranced by the native girl. If one has followed Maugham’s work keenly, one would be less inclined to read the story as a racial one. The theme is tied to the author’s belief in the idea that most women become heartless towards men who are unusually devoted to them and are willing to make any sacrifice. Maugham’s idea is that women will accept a man’s cruelty, but she can’t bear him being subservient. Of course, The Pool can be interpreted as a White man’s fascination for the exotic colonies he ruled over. The author could be suggesting that while it’s nice for the White man to admire the native land and its people, he must not allow their worlds to collide.

As expected, Maugham’s displays what a fine craftsman he is. The words are elegant and precise, with a wonderful sense for cadences - so that every now and then one feels like saying out a sentence aloud and relishing its ring. The delightful turn of phrases, the ironic wit, the keen insights – all ensure you don’t have a single dull moment with Maugham.

-Sandhya Iyer


Alexander said...

Dearest Sandhya,

I must say it: you have certainly embarrassed somebody. But surely not yourself.

Tremendous review! I have never read - Anthony Curtis included! - more charming description of Maugham's cynicism. I am glad that you have obviously enjoyed the stories. Let's hope that this collection will be the beginning of a long and fruitful journey for you, despite that you are not great fan of the genre of the short story.

A very interesting paradox you have raised about Maugham's theoretical conceptions and their clash with the reality. I have found somewhat similarly his endings with suicide unconvincing - half of his first mature collection indeed, quite chilling experience. Also, it is very rarely that - as he used to say about his aims - after the end of a short a story there are no more questions that the reader might ask. There always are. Many. But for me this is one the best thing in Maugham's stories (and works in general); he gives quite a lot but always leaves something to the readers' fantasy. Certainly I don't want a writer to give me everything; if there is nothing left for me to exercise my own imagination, poor as it may be, a book may well become a bore; by the way I am not sure that is possible - an author to tell you everything about his characters, even in a novel, and his trying too hard to do that might well make him pretty unreadable.

I find speculating about the motives of Mackintosh or Rev. Davidson totally absorbing and fascinating business. The latter is somewhat easier to be placed - the poor fellow was seduced by Sadie and betrayed everything his fanatical personality had ever lived for; and being mentally deranged it was almost naturally to me that he should have finished his life in so sordid a way; still it was a shocking end. Now Mackintosh is the harder case, much harder indeed. His guilt is perhaps the strongest driving force but it is mingled with fear of ruling the island by himself and marrying a native (or was it half-caste, actually?) and last but not least - it seems to me that the death of Walker (not Walter, dear :)) shook his whole being for in his last minutes the despot was shown as far more human, sympathetic and complex man than anywhere before in the story; Walker actually is the master characterization in "Mackintosh" of the intricacies of human nature and who knows what even a short, but quite revealing, glimpse into that revolting yet fascinating mixture might provoke one to do. But this might well be only my sick fancy. Never mind.

Keep on reading, my dear. And keep on writing.

P. S. One interesting detail about another mistake with these two guys - Walker and Mackintosh - which is much bigger and which I find very funny. Anthony Curtis himself, twice and in two different books, mentions Mackintosh as a famous description of cruel island ruler when this in fact is the name of his assistant. It's encouraging for one to see that even the critics are human and hence succeptible to silly mistakes.

Sandhya Iyer said...

Phew! Thanks so much for liking Alexander. I was most anxious to know your opinion on it. Can't say the review is anything special, but yes, I felt a certain satisfaction while writing it. The reason being I was more effortless this time around. My growing knowledge about Maugham's works (even if it remains a mere drop in the wide ocean he has created )is obviously helping me to articulate and undertand his ideas better.

I get your point on Mackintosh and Rain - yes, reasons can be attributed to the characters' motivations, but as a reader they caught me by surprise. There is another story here - The Unconquered, which I liked a lot. I think when Maugham said that he was touched when he saw goodness in the wicked, he probably meant the German soldier in the French land, Hans. That ending too, where the girl kills her child, seemed a bit too extreme. There is a symbolism to it of course, which is what Maugham aims to achieve and it's not an entirely implausible end either - just that it is far too dramatic I thought.

But I must add that Maugham affords me the chance to find some faults with his stories, precisely beause the strengths are so tremendous! The good things I have started to take for granted I guess. :-)

Alexander said...

My dear, you shouldn't be anxious about my opinion for it is of no consequence whatsoever. But it might provide something for nice, friendly chat. Or it might not.

Yes, The Unconquered is pretty lurid story, but one of my favorites as well. Perhaps not so much the ending itself as the whole character of the French girl is overdramatized and a bit too much removed from reality, though she does have at one place a soft spot for the German soldier - but it is a very, very short incident (accident?). As for him, I rather like him and I can't quite accept the thing he did, terrible as it is of course, as so much a consequence of the circumstances (as he said also) than due to some innate wickedness or something like that. But that's perhaps due to the fact that I'm not a woman.

Of course Maugham's writings are not perfect, and I think he was quite honest when he said that he included in The Collected Edition only the books he was not so much displeased with. But for my part I'd rather concentrate on the positive sides which at all events far exceed the negatives. Don't take much for granted, dear - it's dangerous.-:)

sandhya said...

Hey Alexander!!!!

You must be wondering why I haven't updated anything on Maugham and not put up the review of 'The Summing UP' Believe me, I have been reading the book from the day I received it - Just that I don't go beyond reading a couple of pages. So I am still on page 109 - that's because every page is so rich and insightful in content and language, that I let it linger for a while. I literally don't want it to finish, so I am slower than I have ever been reading any book. But I devour every sentence and line, and try to bring a lot of Maugham's suggestions to use. It's like a daily enrichment session reading it. I do not dare to write a review of it, but will put some of my thoughts on it.

Alexander said...

Oh Sandhya,

What a pleasure to hear from you!

I am happy that you enjoy reading The Summing Up so much. Your reading is certainly worthy of Maugham's enormous amount of application; he took so much trouble with that book; he wrote and re-wrote, shortened here, elaborated there, cut one passage, added another. I daresay I repeat myself but I have always found impressive the claim of Raymond Toole Stott - Maugham's most conscientious bibliographer and a man who has seen almost all of Maugham's manuscripts - that probably no more than half of what was initially written as The Summing Up was actually published. And of course of all of Maugham's manuscripts this is by far the most heavily corrected one.

Besides, dearest, I know you are extremely busy - as so fine a reviewer like you should be. I follow both of your blogs, and both are fascinating. I think soon I'll have to try some IWE or one of those charming Indian movies you rate between one and two stars.:)

Please do not be in any hurry over Maugham. As every great writer, he is read best at leisure - exactly as you do. Would love to read your thoughts about the book.

P. S. Cute picture on your profile.

P. P. S. I often re-read the excertps on my Multiply profile which amount to almost half the book. It was really hard to quote from The Summing Up; it's like a piano sonata by Mozart - remove just one bar and the whole structure would fall. And yes - it's exactly like "daily enrichment session" - beautifully said.

sandhya said...

Alexander: I finally finished reading Summing Up last Friday- will put up my thoughts on it. The portions on God and philosophy I only skimmed through. I get a feeling I am not quite ready or equipped to understand what Maugham means to its fullest extent, so I'm going to come back to those pages later.

Didn't know you follow the Hindi film blog too!!! :-)

Alexander said...


Your feeling is wrong. You're quite ready. About God and philosophy Maugham is as simple, concise and lucid as ever; so much so that some writers have claimed that his observations are "unremarkable" - which is probably true for them, but personally I find them very thought-provoking. But if you think you should get to them later, by all means do so of course.

I am afraid that "A Writer's Notebook" - whenever you decide to have a look at it - might come as a disappointment after "The Summing Up". It is much more fragmentary - it's a collection of notes after all - but it does give an unique insight into Maugham's working methods. Also, it is fascinating to see how his reflections about the world changed with the years: from the time when he was 18 until the old age. All in all, quite different than "The Summing Up" but exploring the very same topics which Maugham was concerned with all his life and therefore a perfect supplement.

sandhya said...

Alexander: Heyyyyy!!! I've just bought Theatre and plan to read it. What do you think about it? Is it one of your Maugham favourites

Alexander said...

Hi Sandhya,

How are you, my dear?

I love Theatre. Or I should say, more accurately, that I love Julia - for it is she who is the whole novel. Strangely shapeless and plotless for a novel of Maugham, but the characterisation is some of his subtlest and most compelling. At least as far as I am concerned.

Now, dearest, it is up to you, as a woman, to decide whether Maugham succeeded in viewing the world through woman's eyes. I hope you won't be outraged.

And I also hope your edition contains the wonderful preface Maugham wrote for The Collected Edition in 1939, just two years after the novel was first published. It is of course entirely dedicated to Julia and the considerable affection Maugham had for her.

It's funny when I come to think of it. Indeed, I can't think of any two of Maugham's 20 novels, the earliest and crudest ones including, that are in any way alike. Every one of them has an atmosphere of its own. Take Theatre, for instance; it is not a novel at all, but an extended character sketch actually. It has little to do with the ominous and disturbing Christmas Holiday, published just two years later; it has nothing to do at all with the passionately exotic The Narrow Corner, which appeared five years earlier. But I am rambling.

PS Do you know that in Germany, where they LOVE giving alternative titles in translation, Theatre is known as "Julia, du bist zauberhaft", which should, I guess, be translated as "Julia, you are enchanting!" She is indeed!

sandhya said...

Alexander: I have still to read enough of Maugham (and his entire body of work is like a treasure to be slowly discovered) to really make a comment on how different they are. But I am getting a collective sense of his thoughts, and common threads etc.

On Theatre - glad to know it is character-based. I think Maugham really excels in doing that. I loved some of his short stories, which were really more character-based than plot oriented.

Okay, I dont know if this will disappoint you or gladden you, but i have kept aside Theatre for now and started on Of Human Bondage, which i bought yesterday. Phew, it's a long book - reminds me of Middlemarch -which to me is one of the most fulfilling and masterfully written novels by George Eliot. I am already on page 130 in one day, and it's been expectedly special. Maughgam days are here again! Not that they ever went away :-)

Alexander said...

The funny thing is that, for all their differences, Maugham's works (in general, not only the novels) can hardly be mistaken with someone else's. Except for a few of his early attempts, like Liza of Lambeth or The Magician, both thoroughly un-Maugham, his personality always so strongly pervaded his writings that it actually transcended every difference in style and content. Or as the critics say: he is very subjective writer. As if there were any other type of writer.

I am still at the very beginning of my exploration of the world literature, but it already is disconcerting to note that switching from Maugham to some of his contemporaries (like Katherine Mansfield, Joseph Conrad or Francis Scott Fitzgerald) is like playing with the tuner of a radio until I lose the station completely.

Of Human Bondage is surely a great book, but I am getting a little impatient when people describe it - which they do all too often - as Maugham's greatest one. It is just the longest. Hope you'll like it. From all I've heard, and the few pages I've read, of Middlemarch, you might find Of Human Bondage inferior. Well, we'll see.

(I myself hope to read one day Middlemarch, but when will this happen...)

I don't know if you share this notion of mine that making one familiar with as many works by a given author as possible and putting them into the context of his life really does add to one's appreciation of him, but if you do, Of Human Bondage is a better choice than Theatre, to be sure. Did you have some special sixth feeling about putting aside the latter aside and starting the former? -:)

As you know, Of Human Bondage was first published in 1915 and that was the start of Maugham's mature writing career which continued for the next 45 years or so; his earlier books are much better left for the end. Interestingly, you've already read Maugham's next two novels - The Moon and Sixpence (1919) and The Painted Veil (1925). You might enjoy observing how he developed for a decade or so. For me the most remarkable thing about Maugham has always been the consistency of his mature works; I wouldn't like to be without even the worst of them on my desert island exile.

PS 130 pages a day is quite impressive, even for so readable an author like Maugham!

sandhya said...

Alexander: I love your analogy about tuning stations, but good to know you are venturing into unexplored territory as well. I know it's always daunting, especially the authors you mention. Conrad's Heart of Darkness I have never been able to get through. I have read The Great Gatsby, but it was a small struggle. In general, I am slightly uncomfortable with adjusting with narrative form and that is a problem with American Literature. Maugham rarely experimented with form but his content has always been bold, and that's to my liking.

On Human Bondage not being Maugham's best, I will admit this much - Middlemarch is probably superior. But then i haven't come to the centrepiece of the novel yet - Philip's masochistic relationship - I am curious to see how this goes.

Alexander said...

One must always venture into the unknown. Otherwise life wouldn't be worth living.

I am concious that sometimes I read and re-read Maugham much too much. He is of course great, always immensely enjoyable and stimulating, but there are so many other writers who have survived the test of time and are therefore worth checking, that I sometimes despair how short man's time of Earth is. It is interesting to note that many of my disappointments were indeed caused by Maugham because it occurred in his anthologies. That's funny.

I am almost afraid to try any other of Maugham's 'top ten', even though the first one was just about perfect. (I have recently had an itch to start 'Persuasion', but... yet again failed to stretch the day). I think from my still rare encounters with other writers, and except for the delicious Jane, only Aldous Huxley and Bertrand Russell have made a lasting impression on me, certainly encouraging to read more of them. 'The Great Gatsby' was a monumental disappointment.

I too loved the tuning metaphor so much that I applied it to Bertrand Russell as well; though I used it for comparison between his early and late writings, I guess it is quite appropriate if one wants to compare him with other writers. For once, here is a match for Maugham in terms of simplicity, lucidity and wit, extremely different though the men and their writings are. Small wonder that Maugham himself admired Russell's style very much. Yet, he put in 'Traveller's Library' that awful exercise in pompous rhetoric 'Free Man's Worship'...

sandhya said...

Alexander: I'm almost done with Of Human Bondage. Hopefully I will write something on it. I enjoyed it a lot, though yes, it's more personal than any other Maugham book. So it's almost a stream of consiousness novel, with no real structure etc. Also, was this novel written in small installments? - remember many novels were actually published fortnightly in magazines, so the respective authors were obliged to prolong every episode. That was true of Middlemarch. And I don't know if that is also the case with Of Human Bondage, but it certainly seems to be rambling at many places - that is sure to test the average reader's patience. I didn't mind that very much though.
In fact, this was the first novel where my emotions traveled so much in tandem with a book - the desultoriness, the despair, living with conflicting notions, trying to understand the meaning of life and then surmising that there is no meaning and one makes one's own little design - it allowed me to achive an incredible oneness with the author.

Beyond the fact that there is so much spiritual insight in the book, and the damning nature of love (however much kindness and goodness a person might show towards you, if you don't love him, you don't), Of Human Bondage I loved for personal reasons.
Of course, the greatness of the book precisely emerges from the fact that Maugham's emotions are intensely private and yet tragically universal.

PS: By the way Alexander, am I to think you have read every single work of Maugham? :-)

Alexander said...

No, dear Sandhya, the instalments case was not the case with Of Human Bondage. Maugham started it probably at 1912 and finished it for two years, more or less writing nothing elese during that time, except for one play (The Land of Promise). By that time he was already a celebrated dramatist and didn't have any financial problems and therefore didn't need to write on commission for magazines. It is interesting to note, and I think it is a telling proof for Maugham's fame at the time, that Of Human Bondage was first published in America and on the very next day it appeared in England. Isn't strange that such thing would happen with so long a novel by a dramatist whose eight previous novels had had almost no success?

Maugham has explained very nicely how he came to leave the lucrative stage for writing a novel that could hardly have brought him much money (though in the end it turned out that it did). Maugham wrote two prefaces for Of Human Bondage, not so similar as their proximity in time might suggest: in 1934 for Heinemann's New Edition (Reset) titled 'Instead of a Preface' and featuring a letter from a 16 years old admirer; in 1936 for the First Illustrated Edition by Doubleday simply titled Foreword. I hope your edition has at least one of these, for they are fascinating pieces.

You might also find interesting the fact that in 1950 Maugham wrote another preface for a heavily abridged edition of Of Human Bondage. He himself did the abridgement.

Am happy that you enjoyed the novel and would love to read your reflections on it.

As for reading every work of Maugham, you've caught me on the crime scene here. I have not read every single work by Maugham, but I often dishonestly pretend that I have. From his 20 novels I have read only 18, alas; two of the early ones still elude me; The Merry-Go-Round (1904) is on the shelf (shame on me) and the ex-play The Bishop's Apron (1906) is impossible to obtain for less than 100 euros. The situation with the short story collections is a little better: I have read all nine of them. But with plays the situation is really bad: only 19 out of 27. I have a good excuse only for three of the eight unread - they were never published; four of the rest five wait on the shelf (shame of me!). The travel books (3) and the books with essays (10) I have read all.

There are still few articles in magazines or introductions to books of others that elude me. But I want to stress that I have read the parts of 'Looking Back' (1962), Maugham's notorious memoirs, which were serialised in the American magazine 'Show'. Sometimes I wonder if the people who simply love talking terrible things about have actually read it.

Also, I have to confess that many of these I have read only once and not so carefully, at least in English. That was in the beginning few years ago when I started reading Maugham in original language. It was such an euphoria that I wanted to get and read everything so that I might have at least an idea of the scope and pattern of his oeuvre; the former turned out to be huge, and the latter much more perfect than I thought. Now I am currently in re-reading everything, and reading some things for the first time, but this time more slowly, to savour the pleasure and to try to put my thoughts and feelings in some kind of order, called 'review' entirely for the sake of convenience. It is astonishing how different are some, if not all, of Maugham's books on re-reading, and the experience is always more powerful than the first time. Incidentally, Of Human Bondage was one of the exceptions, that is a book about which I wrote the review after my first reading in English, perhaps because I had read the novel twice before in my native language. The same's true for Cakes and Ale, by the way.

Sandhya Iyer said...

Yes, I half-guessed that Of Human Bondage came in this form and not in installments- cause you would have mentioned it to me otherwise.

Ah, so you've pretty much read everything! I consider myself lucky that I have so much more of Maugham to read and that my discovery has just started. It's an odd feeling reading his novels. On one hand, your heart is in a state of ecstacy to experience his works but there's also an underling sense of despair that one day I'd have read it all :-)
I am not one for re-readings and Austen is the only exception, though I can see myself living with Maugham's writings for longer. In fact, i recently read some parts of The Painted Veil.

But as you say, Maugham has produced a great deal of work, and I'm hoping I will have something of him to read always.

I am now starting on Theatre. How do you rate this one against his other works?

Also, how is it been reading some of the other authors you've taken up? I don't know whether you share the same trait but I tend to get a bit obsessed with a writer and then want to read 'only him/her' for a while.
It happened with Naipaul - I had to read all his major works until I got tired of it.

Then it was Sashi tharoor - great writings on India - u must try reading Bookless in Bagdad.

Then George Eliot and Austen, whose books I continue to read. Austen is all done, but I believe I have some more of Eliot's novels left to read - they aren't supposedly THAT good.

Mark Twain is another HUGE favourite.

Alexaner said...

You are indeed lucky. I can't help but envy you a little bit.

Probably this is the reason, partly at least, why for me re-reading is something of a measure for the greatness of a book or of an author. It doesn't seem quite nice if everything's over with the first reading. But I don't read certain books every year, nor do I make lists like 'To be re-read in 2010'. Indeed, I don't make any to-be-read lists since they are never realised for one reason or another. As it happens to capture my fancy.

Interestingly, Maugham himself was not much for re-reading either, but he lived so long that he ended re-reading pretty much all great novels there are. And Don Quixote he read no fewer than five times - twice in English, thrice in Spanish. He also read the Bible twice from cover to cover. At least so he says. :)

The obsession case with new authors is quite the same with me. And is often detrimental, as it was in Maugham's case, because I acquire too many books in too short a time and I want to read them all - and sometimes I read too many books in too short a time and not too carefully. I hate this and I am trying to change it. Oddly enough, I now have pretty much the same problem with Bertrand Russell who has captured my imagination with his prose and with his mind. As it happens, his longevity and productivity are even more stupendous than Maugham's. So I am trying not to rush him; naturally, Maugham's travel books I was about to re-read will have to wait a bit.

(Jane Austen was the only other case I got obsessed but her case is quite different indeed. Her oeuvre is very small, apparently not very diverse and certainly requires a special mood to be read. It's easier to exercise control here.)

I would like to read something more of Shashi Tharoor, even though the only article of his I read was a perfect nonsense. But I am ready to believe it is an exception. Will check this Bookless in Bagdad. I hope he writes at least 99% English and 1% obscure (for me) Indian languages.

Never read a word of Mark Twain, but both you and Maugham seem to consider Huckleberry Finn as a masterpiece, so it is probably worth checking.

As for Theatre, I regard it as almost everything else in Maugham's oeuvre - as an end in itself. There is nothing like it among Maugham's other books. The virtual absence of plot bothers some people, but it doesn't bother me, uncharacteristic for Maugham as it may be. As a character sketch on a grand scale, it is to my mind superb. Julia Lambert is an unique case - in general, not for Maugham - for a woman who would be denounced by many people as a monstrously immoral and evil creature, but Maugham describes her with so much affection and insight that I can't help falling in love with her.

sandhya said...

That gives me confidence about Theatre! Yes, the lack of plot I can live with, when the character sketch promises to be engaging.

You must read Mark Twain. Huckleburry Finn is brilliant, but Tom Sawyer turned out even better!

Shashi Tharoor - many believe is a remnant of the Raj, very elitist. But he has a genuine literary flair and Bookless in Bagdad in particular is meant for literary enthusiasts and book lovers. The other book that comes to my mind - which I think you should find and read - is Amitava Kumar's Bombay-Newyork- London - about his own journey as a man and how certain literary texts/novels affected him at different times and influenced his course of life - as a writer and human being. Since I came very close to experiencing something similar with Of Human Bondage, I'm confident to recommend this author to you strongly.

avinash angal said...

very very happy to read the review!
i think possible reason of rev.
Davidson's suicide may be as,rev succumbs
to charms & coquetry of sadie,which
is inherent in her nature by her
ways. and sadie won't hesitate to blow the thing such a loud,so as to reach everyone including governor.s ears.
already governor is not very
happy about rev's attitude,thus
demolishing rev's repute a his
1929 silent movie &better one 1931's suggest the same,more or less.
do you think my feeling okay?
avinash angal