There is something rather special about W Somerset Maugham. Maugham's works offer a detail into the life of a man who struggled with his sexuality and his choice of career. Utilizing both, one can find his misogynist tendencies in the characterizations of men and women in his tales, from "Razors Edge" to one of his best works "Of Human Bondage". One can also find astute understanding of the foibles inherent in human living in some of his lesser known works, including "Christmas Holiday" and "Mrs. Craddock".
Delving into the works of Maugham carries the reader to another time and another state of mind, one in which the reader acknowledges how difficult life can be. Maugham lays out the most complex characters and asks us to forgive them for their frailties. Often, we can see the direct correlation to his own life in his dramatic imagery. For instance, it is said he used his landlady as a model for the character of Mrs. Craddock and he indicates her glorified idea of romance and marriage in his depictions. His "Christmas Holiday" characters, a rich young man who visits Paris during Christmas, and the lady of the evening who holds a sad secret, come across like a mystery unfolding before ours and the characters eyes. Maugham sets the scene of intrigue, and sexual tension and does the unlikely thing, he leaves it smoldering.
The writer offers us a more spiritual journey in "The Razors Edge", a more metaphysical experience that leads the character into strange and new, wondrous places and spaces. Using his experiences as an ambulance driver in this novel, we find the character living that life for a period of time. And as he was also an undercover agent for British intelligence, we can see he knows how and what to reveal and what to keep hidden in his characters minds.
Maugham also offers some of his fascinating thoughts in his "Writer's Notebook" which he explains are fodder for possible works and things he just felt necessary to jot down just in case one day he might use them in something he writes. As a writer, I can attest this is the most interesting piece of work he left behind. Looking deeply into the thought and ideas Maugham dictates to himself offers the reader a fresh new look at the writer to who I am gratefully indebted.
There are many works still on the shelves awaiting my bleary eyes. There is something comforting knowing that, and also relishing the idea that taking time to read the words of such a great writer makes the journey well worth the bumps in the road.