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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham 
24th-Aug-2006 08:08 pm
FYI: W. Somerset Maugham was a homosexual British writer who, like E. M. Forster, avoided publishing gay themes during his lifetime. He makes for a good, leisurely read.

Maugham, W. Somerset. Cakes and Ale. 1930. New York: Modern Library, 1950.
Summary: Acclaimed novelist Edward Driffield is dead and soon to be the subject of a biography, but his promiscuous first wife Rosie, who eventually ran off with another man, is casting a long shadow over his life history. Only Ashenden, who conducted his own short affair with Rosie, knows the truth of matters--that the couple became estranged after the death of their only daughter.
Comments: Ignore the most bafflingly misleading title; this is a most enjoyable story of a beautifully realized and morally ambiguous female character. Rosie is downright fascinating, and at first you think that she's just amoral. Only at the end do you find out that behind her mischievous smile she was desperately keeping sorrow at bay. Of course, most remember the novel for its many digressions regarding fiction writers and their politicking. Driffield is generally presumed to have been Thomas Hardy, though the author denies this in his introduction. Alroy Kear, ridiculous in his social mastery, IS, however, based upon Hugh Walpole, and Ashenden is a fictionalized Maugham himself. Ashenden observes the transition from Victorian to modern literature with an astute and wry eye that, more than its prescience, is valuable for its on-the-ground view of English literature's trajectory in that moment in time.
Notes: hardcover, Modern Library edition (library book)
Rating: 6/10 - Though Maugham's novel falls short of greatness, it's still recommendable as excellent British writing of its time period.
25th-Aug-2006 09:32 am (UTC)
I love Maugham's work^_^ my professor lent me a collection of short stories by him and I loved the intricate writing with the sly humor and dead-on observations. I'd really like to buy all his works if I can.

I could guess he was gay even though he never wrote about it explicitly. There was that subtext lurking under a lot of his sentences.
25th-Aug-2006 10:20 am (UTC)
I've been digging around for nice editions of Maugham's work, and they're hard to find! Most of his novels and short stories these days are published only in paperback, but if you're willing to go used, the mid-20th century Modern Library includes three of his novels in hardcover. I'm not sure, exactly, what's available in the UK.

Oh, and there's a B&N edition of three early novels, which is a good value.

25th-Aug-2006 08:55 pm (UTC)
I bet the UK market has to have his works in print. I'll check later.
25th-Aug-2006 08:57 pm (UTC)
Oh, I think most of his stuff is still in-print in the US; I just think that the current trade paperback Penguin and Vintage editions are ugly! The in-print edition of Cakes and Ale is actually (except for the cover art) a facsimile of the Modern Library edition from a half century before! And because the two editions have very different dimensions, it's painfully obvious.
25th-Aug-2006 09:01 pm (UTC)
There's this old bookshop here that I'll check for books in later. I found some very nice hardcover, acid-free, collections of poems there. They might have his stuff too.

I hate Penguin books^^ They turn yellow in a year and the font hurts my eyes. I prefer Oxford though it's more expensive.
25th-Aug-2006 09:06 pm (UTC)
There are a million and one copies of all imaginable editions of Maugham's work available at the usual online venues, but the UK editions are unfamiliar to me, and I'm not going to have a hypothetical vintage hardcover from England sent to me without knowing what kind of quality it is. I got the Modern Library hardcover edition of On Human Bondage up in Maine for four bucks. ^_^ It's missing the dustjacket, but this was from a time when dustjackets were still half-meant to be thrown away.

You know, I think the Oxford books are less expensive than the Penguins here. I try to make a point NEVER to buy Penguin's paperbacks new if possible. The paper is thin and ugly, and the books are floppy.
25th-Aug-2006 09:15 pm (UTC)
That's why I had so much fun in London. The section on standard English authors was great to browse through^_~

Interesting. Here the Oxford ones are more expensive.
25th-Aug-2006 09:24 pm (UTC)
*checks* Yep, Penguin editions are more expensive than Oxford editions. By a significant amount. Except for slew of $3 Oxford editions that I purchased while in Korea, I try to stay away from both. There are SOOOO many other options, bother nicer or cheaper.
25th-Aug-2006 09:27 pm (UTC)
It must be the shipping costs or how they sell to overseas buyers then^^
25th-Aug-2006 09:30 pm (UTC)
*nods* Probably. 'Cause what's quoted on B&N is list price. ^^;

I wish I could take you book shcpping here. *sighs* You'd have a field day--especially if your visit happened to coincide with a sale...
25th-Aug-2006 03:27 pm (UTC)
Have you, umm, forgotten any books? ^^;
25th-Aug-2006 08:55 pm (UTC)
*laughs* No, not forgotten. ^_~
26th-Aug-2006 12:03 pm (UTC)
I thought it was a pretty awful book really, but I was dying to hear what you thought ^^;;;
1st-Sep-2006 05:21 am (UTC)
Review archived.
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