Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Secret Lives

I’m currently fascinated by The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham by Selina Hastings, as I was a Maugham fan in my teens, starting with the short stories, which I still enjoy, though it’s a long time since I read one of his novels or plays. Sometimes when I read a book and it drips through my mind like water, I wonder whether it’s my own lack of attention, these days, that’s the problem – I read with such greed and fascination as a teenager that the characters and plots spring right back into my memory as they’re dealt with in this biography. Maugham was such a prolific writer – perhaps too prolific at times, as he did rehash plots and characters endlessly – and so steely in his ambition to succeed, to be known, to make money, that he makes someone like me – who can barely prepare a shopping list – feel like a complete slattern. Such discipline and industry is needed to carry an idea through into a completed book or play, and to be able to complete again and again and again simply because one has decided to do it, is a trick worth learning. For all his well-earned wealth and celebrity, though, Maugham was unhappy and largely disliked, but he was ill set up for life by the loss of his much loved mother when he was only eight, followed by a swift rehousing to a dreary Kent vicarage, where he passed the rest of a pretty miserable childhood. 

I haven’t even finished the biography yet but I know another rereadathon awaits, of the novels at least. He’s not in vogue at the moment but The Gate had an enjoyable and beautiful production of The Constant Wife a couple of years ago – maybe there will be a little Maugham revival in the wake of this biography.

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