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William Somerset Maugham

All readers have a favorite author and I am no exception. I admire many writers but somehow I am biased towards William Somerset Maugham, a 20th century British writer, playwriter, short-story writer. He was reportedly the highest paid play-writer of 1930. He was orphaned very soon and was sent to live with Vicar of Whitstable in Kent. This place is depicted as Blackstable in many of his books. His experience with his uncle, Henry Maugham, was emotionally tormenting. Moreover coming from a French backgroud he suffered from constant teasing at school and developed an inferiority complex. His short stature and stammering left Maugham a quite man, emotionally less expressive, the reason perhaps why he went on to write books. He tried many careers like learning literature, providing service to church etc. Finally he spent five years in London learning medicine inspite of having a deep desire to be an author, which he was scared to express to his guardians. He also provided service in army, which he described in collections ‘Ashenden’ later. Well this surely doesn’t say why I adore him.

I was introduced to Maugham by his semi-autobiographical work Of Human Bondage. Till then my reading habits were not ripe. I used to read Tinkle, Champak, Agatha Christie etc. This was my first real read and I loved it. I never knew this was a semi-autobiographical work. The stammering was replaced by Philip Carey’s crippling. The character settled down to be a doctor. The Whitstable was replaced by Blackstable. This was a book that could have a lasting impact on you. My friend Gauri Bartakke gifted me this book when I was in Pune this February. I lended it to another friend of mine and he hasn’t returned me as yet. I dislike when people dont return books. How RUDE!

Well then I read Razor’s Edge and again reread it few months back. I was in LOVE with Larry. Maugham made you fall in love with this character with his deep and affectionate smile. Its the beauty of Maugham. The book has a wonderful line: “A God that can be understood is no God.” How classy, lucid way of writing!!

I think perhaps the most hilariuos read of Maugham so far has been Cakes and Ale. What a book man!! A reader cannot miss this one. Some really “real” statements. The observations of a 16 year old teenager and then recollections of them when he grows up are really, really hilarious.

The observations, descriptions, emotions are amazing…be it any book. This is the charm of Maugham. For instance, in Cakes and Ale, when he gets invovled with a beautiful elderly lady..he can’t help but say the dilema of writing in first person. He says that it is a great feeling to see the reader smile, smirk or even have tears in his eyes….but its no great feeling to appear a foolish. Despite this apprehension he want to be remembered the most for this book. This is just a glimpse and I am no Maugham to make this reading interesting and hilarious. I will write more as I read more.

The next on my shelf is “Fools and their Folly”. I know I am dying to read it and you wondering the fools in this one…but this one will surely take time.

Dated: 9/05/2006 on Critical Views

  1. silvia di mario
    March 14, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    I found your blog in a w s maugham website link. i love reading, and I loved reading your blog too. about india, and canada..and pancakes. my favourite writer is fitzgerald, but i liked maugham very much. Just finished the razor’s edge, I can’t wait to read something else (I’ve already read on human bondage). i know your post about maugham is quite old, but I just want to share my experience with you

    sorry for my terrible english (I’m italian)


  2. March 14, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Hi Silvia!

    Thanks so much for the comment. 🙂 I am glad to know you liked Maugham. I have never heard about Fitzgerald but since it comes as a recommendation from the person who likes Maugham, it definitely calls for a read. Most of my friends fell in love with Maugham after I recommended him to them.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Cheerio!

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