The Summing Up, XXXIII

Now it’s time for Maugham’s bragging chapter, though I imagine it might be a recurring theme because even though he’s not writing an autobiography or memoir, he’s covering his rise to prominence in the theater. The chapter is mostly just him bragging about his success and people’s inability to understand how he wasn’t impressed with the success because it was too big a thinker for that reaction. He responds directly to something he says he overheard probably twenty years before. He’s just drunk a couple liters of water and he’s going to show everyone. And it was Evian, not some cheap water, he’s Somerset Maugham after all. It’s obnoxious but not unexpected. When he later responds to critics who said he talked down to the general public, he responds—again, some twenty years later—he was just selling them what they wanted. A couple things though, proving his ego. He won over critics, if not in general, then for particular plays. He also used his success to experiment with form, pushing the public. Regardless of the latter anecdote being true, it was Maugham trying to grow. He wasn’t static in his obnoxiously wonderful success we poor readers of The Summing Up should so envy. He was doing okay, good, better, and finally special work. Just because he’s an ass doesn’t mean he’s wrong about his success.

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