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A Writer's Notebook (Vintage International) Paperback – December 1, 2009
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"Maugham is a great artist.... A genius." —Theodore Dreiser "An expert craftsman . . . His style is sharp, quick, subdued, casual." —New York Times "[Maugham] has given infinite pleasure and left us a splendor of writing which will remain for as long as the written English word is permitted to exist." —Daily Telegraph "The modern writer who has influenced me most is Somerset Maugham"--George Orwell"Maugham remains the consummate craftsman . . . [Hid prose is] so compact, so economical, so closely motivated, so skillfully written that it rivets from first to last." —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
From the Inside Flap
From 1892, when he was eighteen, until 1949 when this book was first published, Somerset Maugham kept a notebook. It is without a doubt one of his most important works. Part autobiographical, part confessional, packed with observations, confidences, experiments and jottings it is a rich and exhilarating admission into this great writer's workshop.
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“A Writer’s Notebook” is divided by years beginning in 1894, ending in 1944 The early years are filled with platitudes about humanity. Most of the following sections, written by now an acclaimed author, consists of character sketches and anecdotes drawn from life. Not all the entries remained inert. Three provided the foundation for his most famous short story “Rain” which in turn Hollywood converted into a movie. In one place a remark illuminates the struggle he took to compose his material. “One fusses about style. One tries to write better. . . . One sweats ones’ guts out . . . If you can tell stories, create character, devise incidents, and if you have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.” Maugham himself had an abundance of those four qualities.
So far I haven’t seen a photo of a smiling Maugham. The one I have seen display a bit grumpy countenance. “A Writer’s Notebook” shows otherwise. He appreciated the ironic in human behavior as a number of the entries demonstrate. I’m surprised he didn’t convert more of his anecdotes into stories. His character studies are lessons in themselves. If nothing else, the book displays a wide ranging, keenly observant intellect. He writes of himself as well as others with as much forthright honesty as anyone can. In print Maugham proves himself a damn good conversationalist.
Well worth reading if you're interested in Maugham, or developing your personal journal skills.
Maugham had a profound and penetrating view of the frailties of human nature. This little volume consists of snippets and observations which COULD have been major pieces, but were left in unfinished state. If you can bear the fragmentation, it is a wonderfully revealing book, one which can be picked up and put down often. It greatly helps of course if you appreciate Maugham's laconic observations of people. He was a somewhat morose individual but a writer of unsurpassed style.