Monday, November 24, 2014

Mini-Review of "The Razor's Edge" by Somerset Maugham

I have long been aware of the works of Somerset Maugham, and knew that I needed to add him to my list of authors whose works I have read.  It took the recommendation of an acquaintance to prompt me to pick up "The Razor's Edge."  Mr. Maugham sets himself as the narrator of the tale of an unconventional life lived by Larry after returning from WWI as a wounded aviator whose best friend died saving Larry's life. What was then called "shell shock, and is now referred to as "PTSD," provides a backdrop for Larry's refusal to take a conventional job and to "loaf."  What he lightly dismisses as "loafing" consisted of many years of arduous study - self-directed and eclectic - in London, Paris and India.

The novel has at its center the tension that arises from the inability of Larry's fiancee, Isabel, to understand Larry's failure to take a respectable job and lead a normal life in the new money society of Chicago.  The author uses this conceit to offer brilliant and arch commentary on the vapid nature of society in Chicago, London, Paris and the Riviera.  In sharp contrast to the empty society "Season" is Larry's long season of study and reflection, leading into a search for philosophical and spiritual meaning to life.  Having seen his friend die before him, he wants to know the true nature of life and death.

Maugham calls himself an author who sits "in the first row of the second tier of writers," yet masters of the art of writing, from Theodore Drieser to Gore Vidal, have hailed him as a source of inspiration for their own writing.

This was such a satisfying read that I immediately launched into his novel, "Theatre."  Review to follow soon.



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