Somerset Maugham

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Somerset Maugham

Postby k-j » Mon May 12, 2014 3:56 am

If there was ever a writer in the first rank of second-rate writers, this was he, and I mean that in a good way. I think a good measure of a writer is the short story, and Maugham's best are exemplary of the form.

His colonial settings - Borneo, Guyana etc. - and themes - lonesome shaving of the empire needs a wife, etc. - he has in common with Conrad, and also the variety of narrative styles (either third-person omniscient, or detached man-about-town first-person). He's also like Conrad, although not so bold, in his use of time, hearsay and flashback to construct the tale. But Conrad is a braver, more savage writer, who goes all the way, right to the heart of his characters' flaws and demise. With Maugham, you always feel there is something worse lurking outside the story which drives it all and yet cannot be described. And whether there is or isn't, maybe this is his great appeal?

Anyhow, he is a joy to read, severely underrated in my view. I've read The Moon and Sixpence, Of Human Bondage and two of the four vols of his Collected Stories.
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Re: Somerset Maugham

Postby Antcliff » Tue May 13, 2014 8:01 pm

If there was ever a writer in the first rank of second-rate writers, this was he, and I mean that in a good way. I think a good measure of a writer is the short story, and Maugham's best are exemplary of the form.


It has been a long time, but I recall enjoying some of his. I have great respect for those in the "first rank of the second rate"....I rather think of H. E. Bates as another.
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Re: Somerset Maugham

Postby k-j » Tue May 13, 2014 9:11 pm

Reading that back, it seems like a harsh judgment. Perhaps I meant the second rank of the first-rate!

Never read any Bates, what would you recommend? I see he wrote The Darling Buds of May - I never even realised that was an adaptation! I used to hate the TV show but maybe just because I was young and cynical.
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Re: Somerset Maugham

Postby Antcliff » Tue May 13, 2014 9:40 pm

k-j wrote:Reading that back, it seems like a harsh judgment. Perhaps I meant the second rank of the first-rate!

Never read any Bates, what would you recommend? I see he wrote The Darling Buds of May - I never even realised that was an adaptation! I used to hate the TV show but maybe just because I was young and cynical.


I am reminded of the quote....somebody...that Bukowski was the best bad poet in the US, Mary Oliver the worst good poet. :D

Bates...gosh, it has been so long. I shall have to think. These threads of yours are tempting me to read some fiction K-J...and it has been years.

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Re: Somerset Maugham

Postby RonPrice » Fri Jan 09, 2015 2:23 am

To keep this thread alive, to provide readers with a quote from Maugham, a quote I have found useful, and to wish you all well for 2015, I leave you with: "There are three rules for writing a novel or an autobiography. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.-Ron Price with thanks to Somerset Maugham in D. Brodie, Writing Changes Everything, St. Martin's Press, NY, 1997, p.15.
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