The Summing Up, LIX

The first half of this chapter—maybe more—is more defensiveness from Maugham. He’s ranting about how he’s following the storytelling tradition started back in caveman days—more on Maugham’s hilarious 1930s gendering in a second—and if no one can understand him, well, poo on them. He goes on and on and on and on about the importance of plot and why doesn’t anyone seem to understand it. These young whippersnappers claiming “that in life stories are not finished, situations are not rounded off, and loose ends are left hanging.” Summing Up is 1938; Narrow Corner was in 1932? That novel ends with a bunch of intentional loose ends. Again, Maugham gets lost in the weeds when he gets too defensive. Then the last paragraph is a return to his discussion of the author creating a “direction of interest” for the reader and it’s great. It’s thoughtful, maybe not entirely useful, but thoughtful. Not blathering. Oh, and the gendering. He uses Jane Austen as an example and then genders a Sense and Sensibility reader as male. So, did only dudes read Jane Austen in the thirties? Also, there’s a bit—during the blathering—about how even intellectuals are now reading detective stories, usually condescendingly. It’s a weird section, even more hostile than the rest of the rant. Maybe he couldn’t make one work.

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