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Should you read W Somerset Maugham?

To say W Somerset Maugham is unfashionable is like saying that J K Rowling has sold a few books.

Yet he remains popular.  My post about his memoirs, W Somerset Maugham on sex, turnips and the meaning of life, is one of my most visited (links in bold italics are to other posts on this blog).

He was an extraordinary character.  Born in the British Embassy in Paris in 1874, he grew up speaking French and lost both his parents by the age of ten, when he moved to England.  He served in the ambulance corps in the First World War before joining the Secret Intelligence Service and working in Switzerland and Russia.  Later he travelled widely in South East Asia, China and the Pacific.

W Somerset Maugham Books

W Somerset Maugham is famous for his short stories

These experiences provide the setting for Maugham’s most famous tales.  In the preface to his collected stories he says of the most famous, Rain: “Rain was written in 1920 in Hong Kong, but I had hit upon the idea for it during a journey I took in the South Seas during the winter of 1916.”

The settings, in the dying days of doomed empire, (more…)

Are “The Hotel Stories” feminist?

At a recent reading from my blackly comic “Seven Hotel Stories” in Vienna, a man asked me:

‘These stories seem explicitly feminist. Is that intentional?’

This led to a discussion of “can a man be a feminist?”, to which most of the women present clearly answered “yes”.

My recent reading at “Shakespeare & Co” in Vienna. Great bookshop!

My answer was equally simple: yes, the “Hotel Stories” are intended to have a feminist flavour.

Indeed, an early reviewer of the story “The Two Rooms” commented: “dark, feminist and fun – not three words you often hear together”.

I would be delighted to hear your views. To the question: “Are the Hotel Stories Feminist?” would you say:

(i) yes

(ii) no

(iii) why does it matter?

(iv) some other answer.

If you do not yet own a kindle or paperback copy of Seven Hotel Stories (click on link for Amazon) you can find excerpts from all the stories in this blog – have a browse – including a free copy of The Two Rooms.

Let me know what you think!

Incidentally, another thoughtful person asked me whether I thought the title of my story Seven Ukrainian Girls” (Hotel Story no.8) could be politically incorrect. I urged her to read it and see what she thought. Comments welcome on this, too. You can read the first part of “Seven Ukrainian Girls” at the link.

P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, please friend me on Facebook or sign up for e-mail updates (top right – see the “click here” blue button).  Check out the range of writing on this site via my 5 pleasure paths.

 

Sex, alcohol, people: what makes you happy?

I’m sitting on a high-speed train, next to the window, with an empty paper cup.  How best can I make myself happier?

One of my most popular blogs is W. Somerset Maugham on sex, turnips and the meaning of life (links in bold italics are to other posts on this blog).  In his 1938 essay The Summing Up, Maugham explores whether alcohol, sex, writing or companionship can give you fulfilment.

If you are interested in this subject, you may want to explore the links in this post.

I was thinking about happiness recently as I caught a train from London to Manchester (where my mum lives).  I had treated myself to a cup of tea at Euston Station before boarding the train.  Having enjoyed the tea – hot and wet – I wanted to discard the cup.

On the train to Manchester

‘These old Intercity trains usually have a bin by the doors,’ I thought.  I got up, went to the end of the carriage, and, (more…)

The Americans: Fast Trip to London

Previous posts in my series The Americans have included The Americans: prologue; The Americans: leaving New York; The Americans: Avenue of the Heroes; and The Americans: Valley of the Rogue.  Feedback welcome.  This is how the story begins.

Fast Trip to London

The first stage of my journey to Candy McCarthy, Cortez and beyond began in Manchester.  That’s Manchester, England.

I left home at 3.30 Tuesday June 26thwith my usual red rucksack and fairly light load, my diary opens.  Fast trip to London, as always.

January 1979, Isle of Mull

On the third of May 1979, seven weeks before I wrote that diary entry, Margaret Thatcher had been elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.  This event is not recorded anywhere in my journals.

I did note the fact of my attending a “Final Selection Board” for the British Civil Service in London on 11 April, 3 weeks before the election.  The first question from the intimidating, all-male panel, sitting in the Old Admiralty Building in Whitehall, was: (more…)

W. Somerset Maugham on sex, turnips and the meaning of life

A writer compares turnips and sex.  Is he wise, or daft?  Can we use his wisdom – if any – to make ourselves happier?

I have written often about happiness on this blog.  You might like to look at a summary in my piece The one with the links to happiness.

W Somerset Maugham considers happiness and the meaning of life in his essay The Summing Up, written in 1938.  Perhaps we can learn from him.  Try not to be put off by the old-fashioned way in which he often refers to “men” when he means “people”

W Somerset Maugham is most famous for his short stories

In The Summing Up, Maugham asks whether writing itself is enough for a happy life…

From time to time I have asked myself whether I should have been a better writer if I had devoted my whole life to literature.

… and concludes:

Somewhat early, but at what age I cannot remember, I made up my mind that, having but one life, I should like to get the most I could out of it.  It did not seem to me enough merely to write. (more…)

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