Asian Writers

June is dedicated to authors with ASIAN of books in this category will be posted all month....

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Collected Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham, Vol. 2 of 4

It’s a big, fat book. And it has packed within its pages, some really, really good stories.
I was going through a short story phase, in which I read these quick page turners from every possible source that I could get. And now I am done. Atleast for now that is.

Mr. Maugham for me is (ashamed to admit) a new author for me. And I fell in love with him, his writing I mean, after the very first story. There is variety. There is richness. They are unique.
As a reader, perusing through these stories, I got two very distinct impressions. First, that the author is a widely traveled person, the effect of which can be seen in his stories as he beautifully and realistically captures the essence of a place or country. The second
that these stories are based on real people and events. I could be wrong about the second, but if that is the case, then Maugham is an even greater writer than I found him to be.

I will not list down my favorites because in a way they were all good, different in their own way. Some were excruciatingly long for a story, some hardly a page or two. But none of that took away the greatness of the story. The author took special pain in characterization – he etched out the physical and behavioral characteristics elaborately. But did that benefit me as a reader? I think not. I could have done without pages after pages of character descriptions, especially of those who had no relevance whatsoever to the story. But, if you are an aspiring writer, there are a lot of points to pick. Ironically, in one of the stories, Maugham himself questions the need of these character descriptions. [Perhaps he is not the practice what you preach kind]

I am forced to do a comparison between Maugham and Roald Dahl and my preferences lie towards the latter. But in a way I am not sure if its fair to compare the two. Yes, both of them are the trail blazers when it comes to the short fiction genre, but there writing style are poles apart and the years between them is many. While Roald Dahl focuses on the story, making it a nail biting, high adrenaline, cant-keep-the-book-down, Maugham relies more in the context setting than giving a 100% on the story itself. His stories are predictable, and he makes no effort in concealing the true motive of his characters and even though it may be a murder story, the culprit is easily identified early on. Not so with Roald Dahl.

So if I were to choose between the two, it would be Roald Dahl for the stories and Maugham for those who want to hone their writing skills. Depending on what your goal is, pick up that author.

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