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Though it is currently in progress, it might be useful to somebody.
In theory, there is supposed to be Part 2 dedicated to Maugham's personality and interests, but I have no idea when I'll write it. It is a great deal more difficult than the books.
As for Selina's book, I am afraid my review is going to be right on the other pole - which is quite typical for my (lack of) appreciation of Maugham biographies when I come to think of it.
An Indian friend's review of ''The Painted Veil'':
"Ten Novels and Their Authors":
"The Moon and Sixpence":
"Of Human Bondage"
Waldstein, I have Ten Novels and their Authors, and plan to read it soon.... it looks very intriguing!
The same fellow has also reviewed, less scathingly but hardly favourably, "The Moon and Sixpence":
This one has some interesting points, like, for example, the great art being not an expression primarily of feeling, as Maugham thought, but an expression of great ideas. For the record: Maugham once wrote (in "The Summing Up", if I am not mistaken) that if you use art to disseminate ideas you're not an artist but a propagandist; it is difficult to think why anyone would like to express ideas if he or she does not want them to spread as widely as possible. Anyway, long and complicated subject, but I'd rather agree with Maugham's point of view, probably out of prejudice, in favour of him and against the author of the aforementioned reviews.
Because the reviews are contemporaneous with each novel, play, and collection, one can see how critics responded to Maugham's works at the time he was producing them.. before he was at all known, as his fame was spreading, and after he became a Grand Old Man of letters.
I do recommend the series, which has extended to numerous well known authors. However, other than for the books on Maugham, Orwell, and EM Forster, I was dismayed to see the prices for some of the other authors.
Yet the real secret Maugham was covering up, one feels, was not that he was homosexual, but that he was a romantic, hungry for surrender. Release, not repression, is his theme. Nearly all his characters harbor unconventional desires, but these have little to do with their sexual inclinations, and a lot to do with their longings to be artists, or lovers, or saints.
Maugham lived, you could say, on the edge of wildness, and the excitement of his books arises partly from our sense that the man who is so calmly appraising all the delusions of love is, in fact, in thrall to them himself (or wants to be).
Toward the end of Cakes and Ale, one of his best evocations of the literary world, Maugham’s loyal narrator Ashenden, contemplating some pictures of the writer whose life he has been chronicling, observes:
"The real man, to his death unknown or lonely, was a wraith that went a silent way unseen between the writer of his books and the fellow who lived his life, and smiled with ironic detachment at the two puppets that the world took for Edward Driffield."
As so often in Maugham’s work, you can substitute “Somerset Maugham” for the proper name in the sentence, and end up with a bitter, poignant truth.