The Summing Up, XI

And here’s Maugham’s introduction to a writing workshop—a short, but entirely solid chapter all about writers trying too hard to make their readers work for meaning. He never says making the reader work and he approaches it not from the workshop perspective of reading, but opines on what makes the writer go for obliqueness. There is, of course, a fine superiority to Maugham’s position and I swear Of Human Bondage is wordier than it needs to be, but it’s an entertaining superiority. The quotable Maugham has returned—“It is very easy to persuade oneself that a phrase that one does not quite understand may mean a great deal more than one realizes.” Again, way too much “that,” but it reminds me of how high school made Shakespeare out to be terrifying, when all it took was reading the text. Or even Joyce. Though I can’t imagine Maugham would like Joyce (or vice versa). Though Orson Welles had nice things to say about W.S. Van Dyke (I swear he did), so anything’s possible.

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