The Narrow Corner, xxii

I really hope the next Maugham book I read—which should be The Summing Up—has regular chapter numbering. I couldn’t care less about the Super Bowl and I don’t expect Star Wars to go past Episode IX, so I never learned my roman numerals. This chapter has the doctor—who gets physical description for the first time I’ve noticed it (he’s portly with short legs)—having a nightcap with Erik the Dane. Erik relates the history of the Firth family and Louise in particular. Turns out Erik’s in love with her and now, unbeknownst to these two characters, a love triangle is brewing. There’s also quite about about appreciating the East for its beauty instead of the Western expectation of its beauty. While Dr. Saunders cynically dismisses some of it in his observation of the conversation, Maugham does give him some depth as he thinks back on his own home, the small Chinese village and its residents and their daily lives. The writing is amusing enough—Erik the Dane is a fine storyteller and his enthusiasm (and respect for Firth the translator) is palpable. The strangest moment, writing-wise, has to be when Maugham has a simile regarding chimpanzees. It’s for the reader’s benefit, not the doctor’s, and the idea the reader is familiar enough with the facial expressions of chimpanzees… well, Maugham does trust his reader. Maybe misguidedly. Or popular fiction readers in the 1930s really thought a lot about chimps and their demeanors.

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