The Summing Up, XIX

It’s a lovely chapter, which is somewhat unexpected. Maugham does not set high expectations for himself as a narrating protagonist, but his sensitive recollections of his time in the hospital are wonderful. He doesn’t self-aggrandize—at least not as it relates to being a doctor—and he doesn’t dwell. He writes efficiently and without a lot of sentimentality. When he gets how it all relates to writing, he climbs back up to the lectern. Without naming names, he dismisses a “school of writers” at the time of his internship. These writers loved aggrandizing the “moral value of suffering.” Maugham’s experiences as a doctor showed him quite the opposite, which he discusses at length. He never mentions it, but it’s the definitely moment for him as a writer. He didn’t join that successful school of writers, he went his own way, which led to his name being remembered and theirs probably not. He goes on to talk about the differences between being a solicitor and a doctor when it comes to observing people—I say people, Maugham wrote men (wasn’t the twentieth century just so charming in its dismissal of half the population)—and also how it’s more than just the profession. He had an interest. Other people don’t. Maugham’s interest in people and his openness to them define his writing. Even when he’s trying to avoid autobiographical scenes in The Summing Up, his reflections on people create those scenes, often quite wonderfully. Excellent chapter, with some extremely thoughtful observations amid the strong writing.

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