The Narrow Corner, xvii

This chapter is so much a tour guide of the island, Maugham spends a whole paragraph directly addressing the reader. If he weren’t, he wouldn’t get away with the somewhat anachronistic mention of snapshots (and he does). There’s also a nice simile referencing The Odyssey, which he gets away with because of course the doctor’s familiar with it and Erik the Dane would be too. Besides the tour of the island—it’s not even over yet, Erik’s been promising a volcano tour since he showed up and it doesn’t happen here—there’s the first hint at what Fred the fugitive might be on the lamb from. This chapter is about halfway through the novel, just under by a few pages in the latest Vintage printing. Presumably the crime (or whatever) isn’t going to be very material to the plot. There’s some nice writing in the travelogue, with Maugham mixing passive and active voice in the same sentence. It’s necessarily, but creatively expository. Erik the Dane also has a great monologue about living in the East. It’s a far more lyrical description than the doctor’s ever had (something the doctor himself observes). Much of the dialogue is between Fred the fugitive and Erik the Dane. The doctor’s just along for the tour. The strangest part has to be when Maugham shifts to present tense to describe the newspaper they’re reading. “The Bulletin is…” It’s jarring, even if it’s grammatically correct. And I don’t know what to think about the long sentence with multiple semi-colon breaks. Maybe Maugham didn’t like dashes; pity.

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