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172 REVIEWS 1. A Specious Summing Up Wilmon Menard. THE TWO WORLDS OF SOMERSET MAUGHAM. Los Angeles: Sherbourne Press, 1965. $6.95. Somerset Maugham, who died several months ago a few weeks before his 92nd birthday, may have fallen less easily into his final sleep had he read Wilmon Menard's THE TWO WORLDS OF SOMERSET MAUGHAM, which was published early last winter. So shoddy and, in some respects, dishonest·a work is it that this reviewer cannot help but assume that Menard actually counted on the inability of the "very old party" to read it. The "two worlds" of the title are, in the words of the dust jacket, "the lush, pagan beauty of the South Pacific and the old world sophistication and opulence of Villa Mauresque at Cap Ferrât on the French Riviera." Had Wilmon Menard kept to the first and satisfied himself with some interesting—and, apparently, new—documentation of the original living material behind several of Maugham's famous stories of the South Pacific, the book would have merited attention as a modest but valid contribution to Maugham memorabilia. Instead, however, Menard has blown up his book into nearly 400 pages by filling it with old and familiar Maugham-isms, changed a word or phrase from their original text in THE SUMMING UP and other Maugham commentaries, and passed them off as having been spoken by Maugham during interviews with Menard. Once the reader, thoroughly familiar with the quotes in their original context, senses Menard is misappropriating primary source material, can he be blamed for doubting if the interviews ever took place as reported? Menard records his first meeting with Maugham as having taken place "in the early 1950s" at a cocktail party given by the late Max Beerbohm at his Rapallo, Italy, villa. For more than 150 pages, the reader is asked to believe that the then eighty ish Maugham sipped martinis while spouting to Menard well-turned phrases on life and death, the superiority of Polynesian women as love partners, and the people he had encountered 40 years earlier in the Pacific and used in his stories. V/hy shouldn't the phrases be well-turned? They had their origin in that magnificent testament by Maugham, THE SUMMING UP. For example: THE TWO WORLDS, Page 40: "The so-called great man is too often all apiece. It is the little man that is a bundle of contradictory elements. For my own part I would much rather spend a month on a desert island with a beachcomber than a bank president,,,." THE SUMMING UP, Page 4: "The great man is too often all of a piece; it is the little man that is a bundle of contradictory elements....For my part I would much sooner spend a month on a desert island with a veterinary surgeon than with a prime minister," THE TWO WORLDS, Page 48: "What I now felt about mankind, I had occasion once to have a man pronounce whom I had met aboard a ship in the China Seas: 'I'll give you my opinion of the human race in a nutshell, brother,' he said. 'Their heart's in the right place, but their head is a thoroughly inefficient organ,1" '73 THE SUMMING UP, Page 122: "The conclusion I came to about men I put into the mouth of a man I met on board ship in the China Seas, 'I'll give you my opinion of the human race in a nutshell, brother,' I made him say. 'Their heart's in the right place, but their head is a thoroughly inefficient organ.'" Space does not permit a full accounting of Menard's shameless inexactitude. He jumps in and out of the interviews, lapsing into biography here and recollection there, never acknowledging sources. When he quotes other writers, he identifies them only as "a writer once said" or in some other vague way. Menard devotes inordinate space to the findings of informal research at his home base, Hawaii, placing page after page of unlikely conversation about Hawaii in the mouth of Maugham. One gets the impression the book Menard really wanted to do was another matter and one possibly preempted...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 172-173
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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