CONVERSATIONS WITH WILLIE: Recollections of W. Somerset Maugham by Robin Maugham

CONVERSATIONS WITH WILLIE: Recollections of W. Somerset Maugham

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KIRKUS REVIEW

WSM's nephew Robin has already given us a full portrait of his uncle-artist as an old mandarin in Somerset and All the Maughams (1966). But here he comes again, having discovered some old notebooks, to furnish further oral evidence of old Willie's well-fed miseries at Villa Mauresque on Cap Ferrat in the South of France. ""My whole life is a failure,"" muttered the world-famous nonagenerian, brooding on his waned productivity, his barren family life, his tortured coming-to-terms with homosexuality: ""I was a quarter normal and three-quarters queer, but I tried to persuade myself it was the other way round."" There are also stories of a younger WSM--about his ill-fated marriage and more trivial literary-world skirmishes-but these come mostly from gossipy hangers-on whom Robin encountered rather than from the Writer himself: the quotes within quotes within quotes sometimes become downright inscrutable. Only two heartaches stand out: Willie's dismal, near-silent impasse with his equally ancient statesman brother (discussed at length in Robin's earlier book); and his 30-year go-round with alcoholic companion, plot-collector, and ""undesirable alien"" Gerald Haxton, ""my chief care, my pleasure, and my anxiety."" Food, name-drops, nostalgia, and Noel Coward (""Now whatever crossed your strange little Chinese mind to suppose. . ."")--comfortable territory for the chattily decadent younger Mr. Maugham. But this remains an unnecessary, if inoffensive, little addendum.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1978
Publisher: Simon & Schuster