Finished “The Moon and Sixpence” (TMS) by William Somerset Maugham
This was my first foray into the writing of Maugham, a choice driven primarily by Emil Miller’s endorsement of Maugham and TMS in particular through his various postings.
The story mixes biography, autobiography and fiction, following the life of Charles Strickland, a London stockbroker who callously abandons his family acting on impulse to pursue a latent passion to paint that eventually leads him to the south Pacific islands of Tahiti. The story parallels the life of painter Paul Gauguin and in some respects, the travels of Maugham himself during his travels through the South Pacific (1916 – 1917).
Maugham employs the use of frame narrative to tell the story of Strickland. I found Maugham’s character and situational descriptions to be superb. I couldn’t help draw comparisons to Joseph Conrad’s writing and use of narration such as that found in Heart of Darkness.
For example this excerpt from TMS:
“Tahiti is a lofty green island, with deep folds of a darker green, in which you divine silent valleys; there is mystery in their somber depths, down which murmur and plash cool streams, and you feel that in those umbrageous places life from immemorial times has been according to immemorial ways”
To this Conrad excerpt from Heart of Darkness:
“ The edge of a colossal jungle, so dark-green as to be almost black, fringed with white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far away along a blue sea whose glitter was blurred by a creeping mist. The sun was fierce, the land seemed to glisten and drip with steam. “
Being the incurable class clown, I tend to seek out wit if any is to be found:
“ Her arms were like legs of mutton, her breasts like giant cabbages; her face, broad and fleshy, gave you an impression of almost indecent nakedness, and vast chin succeeded to vast chin. I do not know how many of them there were. They fell away voluminously into the capaciousness of her bosom. “
All in all, fine read. I enjoyed it very much and look forward to reading other books by Maugham, the next being either “Razor’s Edge” or “Of Human Bondage” a tough decision, like one who must decide between the moon or the sixpence lying at their feet.
“ I know very little about painting, and I wander along trails that others have blazed for me. At a time I had the greatest admiration for the impressionists. I longed to possess a Sisley and a Degas, and I worshipped Manet. His “Olympia” seemed to me the greatest picture of modern times, and “Le Dejeuner sur I’Herbe” moved me profoundly. These works seemed to me the last word in painting. ”