The Summing Up, X

It’s The Summing Up’s longest chapter and its barest, at least so far, in terms of Maugham talking about himself as a writer. He talks about the influences he chose—Jonathan Swift, John Dryden—and how he attempted to unravel their writing to further his own. He’s trying to create a prose style from raw materials and has a wonderful observation about how much he missed the target: in trying to mimic early eighteenth century prose, he was writing in a style “unnatural” for the early twentieth century. Two hundred years is long time. Then there’s a little about how Maugham escaped into writing plays and, upon his return to fiction, he had changed as a writer. “By then I no longer had any ambition to be a stylist,” he writes, “I put aside all thought of fine writing.” Is it any wonder I love Maugham so much? He goes on to talk about his attempts to avoid adjectives, his reluctance to use metaphor and simile (something I wish he’d remembered when writing The Narrow Corner). In the end—and at the end of the chapter—he had decided to go for three attainable goals in his writing (as he now better understood himself as a writer)—“lucidity, simplicity, and euphony.” Again, is it any wonder why I love Maugham.

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