The Summing Up, L

In The Narrow Corner, the first Maugham book I read for Summing-Up, there’s a line about the Maugham analogue in the story—the failed doctor—he’s not a cynic, he’s a sentimentalist. I thought it said failed sentimentalist but it’s just sentamentalist. This chapter of The Summing Up is about the artist, that most noble of creatures. The artist isn’t bound by convention, the artist isn’t bound by a hope for grace—the artist creates their own grace. The creation of art gives them “spiritual freedom.” “The artist,” Maugham writes at the end of the first paragraph (it’s a two paragraph chapter), “is the only free man.” It’s all very male, this creation of art. The common man endeavors in life to “preserve their being,” while the artist “preserves their being by the pursuit of art.” Maugham closes it all off with a funny line, possibly a wink at the reader. But it’s heavy-handed stuff, regardless of how he closes it. He’s a peacock puffing his feathers. It’s actually a very amusing chapter—very theatrical in how the text works, more a monologue for performance than a chapter in a book to be read. But he almost goes too far—he almost asks the reader to find it amusing. He’s showboating and considering asking for applause.

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