The Summing Up, XL

It’s a long chapter. Easily the longest halfway into the book; I think I’m halfway. If not, I’m close. Maugham talks about actors and directors. He turns the thing about actors basically into an explanation of how the playwright is the only reason an actor can give a good performance and the playwright has no responsibility if the actor gives a bad performance. At least if the playwright is Maugham. It’s fine, especially after Maugham breaks down the whole business aspect of it all. He would’ve written a fantastic history of early twentieth century theater. He closes off the actor section talking about how underwriting a part and hoping the actor knows to fill it out with their own “individualities.” I like that approach in fiction. Not when it’s for a reveal—we never told you he had a wooden leg but he does so he can use it to repair a chair—but when the author just lets the reader fill it in if they want it filled in. Then the rest of the chapter is about directors, which Maugham initially rails against but then he has this glowing look at them and what they do and how he could never do it. After this page plus praise, Maugham ends the chapter saying he lost interest in the stage not because of lousy directors, but because directors needed to exist at all.

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