Carved Maugham

I’ve been bothered by some of the Maugham lately. Both his lack of self-esteem, which is amusing as I’m certainly not one to talk, and his declarations about true artists versus made ones. One of the things with reading Summing Up is thinking about it many years later, but also with the experience of getting an MFA, is thinking about what Maugham didn’t know was coming. Raymond Carver sticks out. Gordon Lish’s editing “made” Carver the acclaimed Carver. Was the unedited Carver the true one? Or did he need to be made. I don’t agree with Maugham, who seems to be coming from that negative self-concept. It’s strange because he’s got so much ego, but in many wrong (and sometimes obnoxious) places. I haven’t read Carver in years, which I should remedy; it also makes me wonder about who edited Maugham and how. The Summing Up is a fatalistic downer, which I should have been expecting but wasn’t since Maugham didn’t die for at least another fifteen years after writing it, maybe longer. It’s hopeless. It shouldn’t be, he doesn’t get any mileage out of the despondency, but it’s hopeless just the same.

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