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The Skeptical Romancer: Selected Travel Writing (Vintage International) Paperback – February 14, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Maugham is a great artist. . . . A genius.” —Theodore Dreiser
 
“An expert craftsman. . . . His style is sharp, quick, subdued, casual.” —The New York Times
 
“Maugham has given infinite pleasure and left us a splendour of writing which will remain for as long as the written English word is permitted to exist.” —The Daily Telegraph
 
“The modern writer who has influenced me most is Somerset Maugham.” —George Orwell
 
“Maugham remains the consummate craftsman. . . . [His prose is] so compact, so economical, so closely motivated, so skillfully written, that it rivets attention from the first page to last.” —The Saturday Review of Literature
 
“It is very difficult for a writer of my generation, if he is honest, to pretend indifference to the work of Somerset Maugham. . . . He was always so entirely there.” —Gore Vidal

About the Author

W. Somerset Maugham was one of the twentieth century’s most popular novelists as well as a celebrated playwright, critic, and short story writer. He was born in Paris but grew up in England and served as a secret agent for the British during World War I. He wrote many novels, including the classics Of Human Bondage, The Razor’s Edge, Cakes and Ale, The Painted Veil, The Moon and Sixpence, and Up at the Villa.

Pico Iyer is the author of many books about travel, including Video Night in Kathmandu. His most recent book is The Open Road.
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030747318X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307473189
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,379,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
W. Somerset Maugham is renowned for his highly regarded novels like of Human Bondage. However, less known is that the late author was a world traveler who wrote articles and letters about the locations he saw as a boy in Spain, a spy in Russia, traveling in Asia during the Great Depression and much more including the United States. Although a few of these short observations are known by readers especially those from The Land of the Blessed Virgin released in 1905 (included as a section As A Very Young Traveler) most probably are not remembered. The other chapters are Sketches of China (from On a Chinese Screen, 1922), Across Southeast Asia (from The Gentleman in the Parlour, 1930) and A Life in Retrospect (from The Partial View, 1954). With over sixty entries and a chronology of the author's life matched up again major world events, fans of Mr. Maugham or those who appreciate a different type of travelogue that looks at the human condition will want to read this fine collection. Fans will understand better the underlying motives to the late writer's masterpiece plays and novels as he matured from that boy in Spain to an adult horrified with what man can do to man yet somehow remained optimistic even into his sixties and beyond when the obituary column was constantly loaded with his peer group.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
I love travel writing, and The Skeptical Romancer belongs at the top of the list. Here are two short paragraphs, which I especially liked.

"I admire the strenuous tourist who sets out in the morning with his well-thumbed Baedeker to examine the curiosities of a foreign town, but I do not follow in his steps; his eagerness after knowledge, his devotion to duty, compel my respect, but excite me to no imitation. I prefer to wander in old streets without a guidebook, trusting that fortune will bring me across things worth seeing; and if occasionally I miss some monument that is world-famous, more often I discover some little dainty piece of architecture, some scrap of decoration, that repays me for all I lose."

"No one moved expect to roll himself a cigarette. The sky was blue and the air warm and comforting. Life seemed good enough, and above all things easy. There was no particular cause to trouble. What is the use of hurrying to pile up money when one can live on so little? What is the use of reading these endless books? Why not let things slide a little, and just take what comes our way? It is only for a little while, and then the great antique mother receives us one more in her bosom. And there are so many people in the world. Think again of all the countless hordes who have and gone, and who will come and go; the immense sea of Time covers them, and what matters the life they led? What odds is that they ever existed at all? Let us do our best to be happy; the earth is good and sweet-smelling, there is sunshine and colour and youth and loveliness, and afterwards, well, let us shrug our shoulders and not think of it."
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Contains some travel stories that take in the
Far East that were not even in the Complete Works (I don' think)--a nice surprise!). Really takes a nice plunge (again) into the writer's process. That section requires rereading, as it did in The Writer's Notebook. Love WSM.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is my first reading of Maugham and it may not be my last. This disjoint set of essays and ramblings lets the reader come to know its author, and he seems an inquisitive fellow who would be entertaining to meet on travel. There's not much structural unity, and that is not really a bother. The only oil paintings here are miniatures; most pieces are fine watercolors, and there are a few charcoal sketches. It is fascinating to read about how places have changed and remained the same since the author visited them several decades ago.
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