Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Narrow Corner (1932) by W. Somerset Maugham

The earlier chapters are splendidly atmospheric; after that either my mood went, or Maugham stopped bothering - I haven't figured that out. I understand now why Maugham is considered a second-rater: what you see is what you get, the story and characters are all on the surface. Aside from that, he treats the point of view in a cavalier manner that would have made Henry James's hair stand on end. Speaking of which, just as Fuller is obsessed with hair, Maugham is obsessed with teeth. To say that in this book teeth equal character would not be a huge exaggeration. Still, reading Maugham is mostly a pleasure because of his great facility with language: it is an object lesson in clear, direct, purposeful writing.

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