Somerset Maugham died at 91 years, 10 months, and 15 days, but claimed that it took him 84 years to learn to live. He wrote for 64 of them, day in, day out, even birthdays, four hours every morning up to the end when his arthritic right hand was in a brace. Playwright Garson Kanin, and his wife, Ruth Gordon, became his friends in the early '40's and this affectionate, sometime defensive, memoir scuttles backwards and forwards in time, in place--New York, St. Jean-Cap Ferrat, Beverly Hills, and between the words of Kanin or Mr. Maugham. Actually they're jottings or what Maugham claimed was ""good for the W.C.""--and you will meet Maugham, always the professional, always the gourmet, sometimes gracious, sometimes churlish, talking about God, rhythm, his paintings, his wife Syrie--that ""foolish woman""--, a very civilized man who found ""life...a most gratifying experience"" or, somewhat less civilized, even scurrilous in his revelations that appeared in 1962. But without the noxious animus shown in nephew Robin's recent Somerset and All the Maughams (p.335). Some of this is peripheral indeed, but redeemed by epigrammatic witticisms or stinging anecdotes (his condolence call to the rich harridan who married his ""former friend""--with a van outside to pick up Maugham's earlier gifts to him. Most of it is spotlit with celebrities: Noel (Coward), Spencer (Tracy), Vivien and Larry (the Oliviers), Thornton (Wilder), etc. etc. and provides a gossipy causerie which is eminently readable-repeatable small talk. It may well make the rounds.