Friday, April 15, 2011

30 Great Short Stories30 Great Short Stories by W. Somerset Maugham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a young man I read Somerset Maugham's novel 'Cakes & Ale' and it did not, from memory, make an outstanding impression upon me. Perhaps I was too young to appreciate it, or perhaps the novel is not Maugham's medium?

I have decided now that the latter is the case since, whilst on holiday in the Southern Highlands at the country home of a generous patron, I started reading Maugham's collected short stories (three volumes of the four volume set occupying the lake-side cottages small library) and was blown away not so much by the stories events as by Maugham's magnificently elegant writing style.

Reading one of Maugham's short stories is like lunching in the tropical sun with a glass of Pims or Pastis de Marseille (both of which were on hand in Burrawang, near my reading-hammock) whereupon you are joined by the most witty, erudite and charming person you're ever likely to meet. And then he tells you a tall tale.

I particularly like the way Maugham switches between long, almost ramblingly convoluted, many paragraphed, sentences. To short tight ones. A literary music of the highest order.

Upon my return to the big smoke I rushed to Gould's Book Arcade, Newtown, and finally, amongst the piles of mouldering tomes and kipping inner-western addicts that occupied the aisles of the last of Sydney's great second-hand book warehouses, I found this old hardcover. Whilst not the Complete I was looking for it is rather a selection of thirty of the best stories from the four-volume set. I will, at some later time read all four volumes, but this is a good start, and a great traveller.

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