The Summing Up, IV

It’s another two paragraph chapter—and an even shorter chapter than the last. “This book must be egotistic,” Maugham writes, “It is about certain subjects that are important to me and it is about myself because I can only treat of these subjects as they have affected me.” It’s like a disclaimer for every single Internet “think piece” of the last ten years. Or twenty. He promises not to do too much autobiography; his private matter are still his own. He writes about how there’s something disingenuous in writing only about one’s negative traits and ignoring the many common good traits. A fine rule; there are notable exceptions to it, of course. The first paragraph—all of the above is covered in the second—has to do with the title, The Summing Up. A summation. No new evidence will be provided. Maugham says all the evidence has already been provided in his previous works, including his plays. Meaning to fully understand The Summing Up, you must have read all his novels, seen all his plays. He doesn’t make that statement, however—because The Summing Up isn’t for the reader, it’s for Maugham. I just wish I knew how he’d written the book. Did he write multiple chapters in one sitting, did he break material into chapters. The short chapters are the 1936 equivalent of 1990s and 2000s white space. He’s controlling the reader’s pace, feeding them the book on his schedule, not theirs.

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