W. Somerset Maugham's fiction
A certain young lady of my acquaintance has just gone and bought the complete works of this author, who we know personally knew and disliked Crowley, and whose story The Magician parodies him (as "Oliver Haddo") and which was subsequently criticised by Crowley (in a review in Vanity Fair entitled How to write a Novel! (After W. S. Maugham) , penned as "Oliver Haddo", Maugham's A.C. caricature), for plagiarism of works by Wells, Hartmann, von Rosenroth, Levi, and Collins.
Apart from that particular story, which I read ages ago, I am entirely ignorant of this man's work.
I'd like to ask if anyone here is familiar enough with the broader sweep of Maugham's œuvre to suggest which, if any, other stories by him are particularly good "reads". Any recommendations (or otherwise) would be greatly appreciated.
Yours in sooth,
Of Human Bondage and The Moon and Sixpence are both terrific reads but my favorite, other than The Magician, would be The Razor's Edge... a truly magnificent work.
Razors Edge is amazing. I saw the film first, then liked it so much i read the book, and was pleasantly though not surprised that the book far surpassed the film. literally amazing 🙂
i have a collection of his short stories but i havent read it yet. but i highly recommend said novel. bill murray is really good in the film too, it is good acting.
Oh wow I had not made the connection The Razor's Edge was a Maugham book. I saw it years ago but it stuck with me as a great dramatic performance from Bill Murray and a really compelling story.
I suppose It fits nicely into the Thelemic films thread as it is a depiction of the process of initiation minus the "goetic nonsense" that Paul mentions elsewhere 😉 Worth renting!!
As for Maugham. I keep meaning to read the Magician but other books with better reputations keep bumping it 🙂
The character of Cronshaw in 'Of Human Bondage' is loosely based on Crowley.
'The Magician' was reprinted as one of The Collected Edition of Maugham's works in 1956. This edition contains a new introduction; 'A Fragment of Autobiography' telling of his meeting with Crowley & how he served as the model for Haddo.
Maugham's first novel 'Liza of Lambeth' was also reprinted in the Collected Edition, in the new introduction to this one Maugham says Haddo was suggested by portrait of Alessandro del Borro in a museum in Berlin as well as Crowley although he does not mention Crowley by name.
The only Maugham I've read is 'The Magician' for obvious reasons.
There is a chapter in there that struck me as having symbolic affinities with LIBER A'ASH, I vaguely recall.
Other than that, Dennis Wheatley appears to have borrowed the theme of 'magical homunculi' from Maugham in 'To the Devil a Daughter', having said which this is not a recommendation.
Who is Henri Birven, by the way ? He looks a jolly old chap, far too nice to be a Thelemite I would have thought ?
Thank you very much, wulfram, for these useful suggestions.
Besmirch not the good name of Dennis Wheatley. I wouldn't be the man I am today if not for reading his tales as a wee bairn.
"Besmirch not his name" ??!!?
Wheatley was a prime example of a Crowleyan 'I knew-him-and-he was-not-a very-nice-man' (but he enjoyed a bloody good lunch) scenario.
If you read him as a bairn, you must have had a very staunch, if somewhat unorthodox, Calvinistic upbringing.
Maugham was a spy as well as a writer. Some of his works are based on actual scenarios. Ashenden, or The British Agent (1928) is one of these. I would start with that one. It deals with, I believe (from memory), Maugham's spy work in Switzerland with Gerald Kelly in 1917. There may well be further light able to be shed on Crowley's spy career by a close reading of Maugham.