Saturday, March 24, 2012

Somerset Maugham Talking About Novelists

"All novels are, every now and then, a great deal of a bore. You have to accept that. No novel is interesting all the way through unless it's a very, very short one."

You wouldn't expect to find a YouTube clip of an author born in 1874 talking about a book he'd published in 1915. But Somerset Maugham had the good fortune to live a long life, whilst writers like D H Lawrence (born 11 years after Maugham) seem as remote as Thomas Hardy.

Here's an interview that Maugham did with the wonderfully effete Malcolm Muggeridge. The sound is slightly out of synch with the video:

Somerset Maugham's longevity was probably a result of good genes and living in the south of France, but there may have been another factor too. According to Clement Freud, Maugham was "obsessed with staying alive and spent most of his later years averting death, which included the consumption of a range of pills including some made from the entrails of swan".

Freud also noted that Maugham had the worst halitosis he had ever encountered.

Fortunately YouTube is still several years away from providing odourama, so we can enoy this close-up encounter with Somerset Maugham without holding our breath.


Poetry24 said...

Very interesting, Steerforth. Did you see 'The Dreams of William Golding', on BBC2? If you didn't, do try to catch it on the iPlayer.

Steerforth said...

No I didn't, so thanks for the tip.

Rog said...

The mind's time-line plays tricks sometimes. I remember being quite surprised to find some original photographs of Charles Dickens.

Steerforth said...

Yes. I'm also shocked to see photos of the man who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo because I had Dumas filed in my early 19th century box.

I find it quite spooky when I see an old lady in a 1930s film and realise that she was probably born in the 1860s and wasn't much younger than me when Queen Victorian died.

Our lives connect with distant periods more than many people realise. For example, I met someone whose grandfather witnessed the last public execution (in the 1850s, I think) and she vividly recalled his description of the scene. And yet there are far more recent events that seem to have vanished into the 'mists of time'.

Lucille said...

That would account for MM's extremely reclined sitting position.
Fascinating. Thank you for posting.

Anne said...

Thanks for posting this. I was impressed by how unprecious Maugham appeared to be - very relaxed about abridgement and adaptation. He's quite right about how television works - unthinkable that people would watch someone reading out of a book. (They tried that with Jackanory for a period, but that just makes his point.) Where I part company is about being read to. I know people who can no longer see to read, and who derive great enjoyment from audio books, so long as the readers are professionals. And my father used to talk of taking it in turns with his mother and sister to read aloud while the others did chores.

Steerforth said...

Yes, Jackanory was one of the dullest programmes I can remember - only marginally more exciting than paint drying. It was redeemed slightly by the mildly sinister man's voice sayng "Jack-a-nory-Jack-a-nory-Jack-a-nory" at the end.

Little Nell said...

It still staggers me when i think that my own grandparents were born near the end of the nineteenth century! My mother, now in her 92nd year, tells me that that they would watch magic lantern slides of the Boer War as children (grim, but fascinating).

I have to confess that I do like to be read to, especially when tis done well. Ever since I fell in love with Alan Badel reading Mary Renault's 'A King Must Die' on BBC Radio in the 60s - on my rented Rediffusion set in my bedroom which cost 6d a week- I have enjoyed this harmless pastime. For the record I did then go on to read nearly all of her books, unabridged. Lucky old Maugham that he was never too sick to read; my cassette player and stock of audio books kept me going in hospital a few years ago.