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The Razor's Edge
by W. Somerset Maugham

This is the story of a young man in search of himself. It is set in Paris, the Riviera and the East, all areas the author knows well. As the record of a journey of human spirit, it stands with OF HUMAN BONDAGE as one of the great English novels of our time.



Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (1 of 6), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, February 01, 2002 10:33 PM From Robert Armstrong: This was a great read. Peter, my partner, read THE RAZOR'S EDGE as a teenager and it remains his favorite book. I told him that I feel like this novel influenced the course of my life even though I just read it for the first time. What I mean to say, so as not to indulge in the kind of mysticism that so attracted Larry (and myself,) is that the novel's theme of the seeker on his individual path to find truth, is alive in our culture in part due to the influence of this book, and it is this cultural theme that has so influenced me. SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT Don't you adore the death scene of Elliott Templeton? I love how Maugham was able to be simultaneously wicked and loving about Elliott who was so pathetic in his aloneness and yet visited by the Bishop himself. Elliott was splendidly himself to the very end. His death reminded me of de Lampedusa's "Death of a Prince" chapter in THE LEOPARD, espite the many differences. Both novels had a wealthy man dying in a room overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, each was visited by a procession of priests giving last rite blessings and both accounts were vividly evoked. Larry was the soul of the novel and my identification with him is extensive. Of course, I have not achieved Larry's otherworldly stature, his grace, and the extent of his intellectual inquiry, but I aspire to find the truth, too. Maugham captured in Larry an entire movement of the future, a direction that a segment of western culture has taken. In the introduction to the Penguin edition Anthony Curtis discusses the likelihood that Larry was developed more from Maugham's imagination than based upon an actual friend of his. Curtis also points out that Maugham was a seeker who had studied many spiritual traditions from around the world. I find it interesting that Maugham portrays himself in the novel as a very secular personality. He is both Larry's admirer and foil who at one point expresses a fairly strong reaction against Christian doctrine and indicates little awareness of Hinduism or other mystical traditions. It's as though Maugham split his personality in two and expressed his ongoing internal debate through a fictional relationship with Larry. Please forgive me for mentioning this again, but for one year, in 1962-63,when I was eleven years old, I lived in -Jean-Cap-Ferrat in a small rented villa with my family-- an unforgettable experience. I remember my mother showing me where Somerset Maugham lived, which was several streets away, behind large closed gates through which you could see lovely gardens but nothing of the villa itself. She told me he was the most famous living writer in the world. He died a few years later. Who nominated this book? Thank you! Robt
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (2 of 6), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Friday, February 01, 2002 10:53 PM Ann & Robt: This was my first reading of THE RAZOR'S EDGE, and it completely blew me away. What a hell of a love story, what wonderful characters, and what a beautiful rendition of a spiritual search. I'll have more to say, specifically, later, but in the meantime I'm floored by the absolute authority, solidity, etc., of Maugham's narrative. I've experienced such total control very rarely, namely in the fiction of Graham Greene, etc. Whatever my cerebral quibbles, it feels as though I'm riding in a narrative Rolls-Royce, and I am along for the ride, big-time. Why is this a quality I never quite feel in fiction of the past 30 or so years? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (3 of 6), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ernie Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Friday, February 01, 2002 11:57 PM Hi Ann, Robert and Dale, Like Ruth, I read this book eons ago but fortunately or not, I can't remember a thing about it. My thoughts: It makes for fantastic reading and I love the book. While I may have expressed similar sentiments regarding other books, but nothing can compare with this one. For some reason everything I read appeals to me. It is smooth writing and I am very attracted by the setting, the social milieu and the characters. Perhaps it makes a difference that I have lived for years in Chicago and visited both Paris and London. But the focus of the book on both a genuine love affaire and mysticism does it for me. Of course Larry, Elliott, Isabell and even Kosti are lifelike, interesting and mostly good people. Maugham portrays himself as a genuine and gentle person. I may be alone in this, but the social milieu fascinates me as well. It feels as if I am participating the life of the elite which makes it interesting even if some of these socialites are mired in their love of money and need for recognition. Few are genuine intellectuals but flatter themselves to be such. Well, as I said before reading this book is a wonderful experience and it gives me a chance to learn more about mysticism and perhaps oriental spiritualism and religion, all things of which I know so little. Ernie
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (4 of 6), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, February 02, 2002 09:15 AM "A narrative Rolls Royce", I love that description, Dale. I also loved reading this book. The social milieu described was very much that of an earlier time, but the philosophical questions raised are so contemporary, probably because they are timeless. I am impressed by Maugham's ability to weave all of these characters together in a story so effectively. This is a relatively short book and yet I thought we had fairly complete pictures of Elliott, Gray, Suzanne, Sophie, Isabel and the narrator. Somehow, I had the sense that I knew Larry the least. I'm wondering if it was because he was evolving throughout the story. Did anyone else have that reaction? And, Robt, yes, I loved Elliott's dying scene! Actually, I loved all of the sections having to do with Elliott but everything having to do with his death was perfect. That whole process of wangling an invitation to Edna Novemali's party was poignant and yet such an illustration of Elliott's values. He was dying and this was still important to him! And, having himself buried in his Count de Lauria costume, sword at his side and the order of the Golden Fleece on his breast! Can you imagine a more perfect contrast to the character of Larry and his quest? From what I've read, I think that Maugham had a lot of Elliott in him as well. It seems that he put part of himself in Elliott, part in Larry and part in his narrator self. Great book! I also want to thank the person who nominated it. Who was it, Ann? Barb
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (5 of 6), Read 8 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@aol.com Date: Saturday, February 02, 2002 07:21 PM Robert, I was moved to tears by Elliott's death scene, which is a rare thing for me. There was such a reverence about it. And so perfect were the bishop's comment that Elliott's faults are all on the surface and at his core he was generous and kind. Of course it didn't hurt that he was so generous with the Church. I loved Elliott's RSVP: "Mr. Elliott Templeton regrets that he cannot accept Princess Novemali's kind invitation owing to a previous engagement with his Blessed Lord." Dale, I am curious about your "total control" comment. The word I was thinking of while reading was taut. For 2/3 of the book, I could barely move, I was so taken with the reading. I've been thinking about the title as having something to do with the razor that killed Sophie. But also, Maugham gets the truth out of Isabel about how she sabotaged Sophie with the temptation of alcohol. Maugham implicates Isabel in Sophie's death, so Isabel must have a grip on that razor. Here's one of my favorite passages, when Maugham is trying to explain to Isabel why Larry wants to marry Sophie (p.168 of my book): I only wanted to suggest to you that self-sacrifice is a passion so overwhelming that beside it even lust and hunger are trifling. It whirls its victim to destruction in the highest affirmation of his personality. The object doesn't matter; it may be worth while or it may be worthless. No wine is so intoxicating, no love so shattering, no vice so compelling. When he sacrifices himself man for a moment is greater than God, for how can God, infinite and omnipotent, sacrifice himself? At best he can only sacrifice his only begotten son. Wow! Strike now, or else the iron cools. - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (6 of 6), Read 7 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Saturday, February 02, 2002 08:08 PM MAP -- your passage follows upon the heels of the one I believe Robert referred to in his post the two together were thus far a standout section of this work for me. Isabel's reaction to what the narrator says to her "Where on earth did you get that?" and his response "Nowhere. I've invented it on the spur of the moment." and again her response"I think it's idiotic and blasphemous." -- an interesting bridge. This page (p209) took me back to Crace's Quarantine with the references to the devil's temptations of Jesus -- I am left pondering how WSM's 'But it wasn't. The devil was sly and he came to Jesus once more and said: If thou wilt accept shame and disgrace, scourging, a crown of thorns and death on the cross, thou shalt save the human race, for greater love has no man than this , that a man lay down his life for his friends. Jesus fell. The devil laughed till his sides ached, for he knew the evil men would commit in the name of their redeemer.' is similar or dissimilar to the underlying thinking behind Musa and his dealing with Gally and the others in the desert caves? I have about a hundred pages to go to finish this one but am thoroughly enjoying it as I always do when I visit with Maugham. Dottie Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end. Every choice is a world made new for the chosen. Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (7 of 23), Read 46 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Sunday, February 03, 2002 02:45 PM Excellent notes, folks. MAP, I did say Maugham was in "total control" but probably a better choice of words would be "sure-handed." Taut prose, yes, and with an underlying confidence that the story is proceeding, detours and all, exactly the way it should. For instance, when Maugham starts off on the long tale about his friend the artist's model (sorry, I don't have the book at hand to check her name), I would ordinarily have been impatient, wondering what the heck this had to do with anything, even though it was interesting in itself. With Maugham at the wheel, though, I had faith that this woman would turn out to be yet another F.O.L. (Friend of Larry), and I was right.{G} Another thing Maugham does, especially at the beginning, is the authorial-voice preliminaries that workshops warn us writers against, as being intrusive, and which I nearly always find irritating in contemporary fiction. There were writers of Maugham's generation, though, who could pull it off with absolute grace and style. Which makes me wonder whether it's the technique itself that makes the "intrusion" work, or whether I subconsciously cut the authors extra slack because I know the intrusive-author tack was much more accepted and proper back then. >>Dale in Ala. TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (8 of 23), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Sunday, February 03, 2002 06:34 PM Well - I just got to the martini and I think we need to have Steve try this out{G}. Is he reading this book? If not I vote no one passes on this recipe to him -- make him find it himself{G}. Just kidding but Steve was the first person I thought of when I read that "secret" ingredient -- of course, not knowing much about drinking generally and less about martinis -- this may be news only to me! I am almost done -- almost done -- I want to stop reading so I can stay in this book longer. Dottie Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end. Every choice is a world made new for the chosen. Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (9 of 23), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Monday, February 04, 2002 12:30 PM Well -- of course I couldn't stop reading and so I am finished with this wonderful book. The writing and the authorial asides -- which I relate to the breaking the fourth wall in theatre -- whether or not that is a fit connection -- are perhaps a matter of the time in which the authors worked. And yet -- this 'time' feeling is precisely why I think today's readers need to read books from all decades -- not revised versions but as they were. So they aren't politically correct -- what we can learn from what is written AS it was written is both the story told by an author and the story told by the usage of terms and the thoughts which shine through the story. We get to find a few warts along with the beauty of past decades. It has always been part of my fascination with reading to pick out these little points -- to have my brain trip over a now not so proper idea or term and to think of it in relation to the time -- why has it changed and how has it change -- and even that really hard question of has it REALLY changed? I was interested here in the mysticism and the searching of Larry on the level of the character of Larry but also in relation to why he did or did not do certain things relative to the other characters -- the effect of his decisions on each of them. I would certainly say that some of Isabel's bitter and vengeful layer had been sparked or enhanced by her interactions early on with Larry. So many wonderfully complex characters and so many crossed ties to examine. Such a juxtaposition of the levels of society -- and the levels of self-delusion -- Elliot is fascinating. One begins to wonder at some points what the paths of his nephews and niece (Isabel) might have been if Uncle E. had been present in their lives in America rather than a distant figure over there across an ocean. Would he have been the laughing stock or would his very social-climbing sillinesses have taught the group -- particularly I. a different way of viewing what is valued. Would she have reacted by wanting to be less conventional and thus gone off with Larry to search for the more "real" life which he wished to explore. And DID he -- I think it comes back to not better or worse but different -- each of these young people had high points and low ones -- whatever level of society they were in at that moment there were always pros and cons. Dottie Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end. Every choice is a world made new for the chosen. Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (10 of 23), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Monday, February 04, 2002 02:55 PM Dottie writes, So many wonderfully complex characters and so many crossed ties to examine. Amen, I say. That gets to the heart of what makes this novel so intriguing and satisfying for me. "What if..." and "If only..." are the real eternal questions, aren't they? Speaking of which, here's a question that's probably unanswerable but I can't keep from pondering it anyhow. If Isabel (at least, the character she's become by the end of the book) had it all to do over again, would she have chosen to go on the road with Larry and take life come-what-may? And if so, do you think their pairing would have lasted through the years? >>Dale in Ala. TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (11 of 23), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Monday, February 04, 2002 05:15 PM I was floored by The Razor's Edge. Partly, I suppose, because I had absolutely no expectations going in. You've already covered what I think -- smooth writing, engaging characters. They were all so complex, real and multidimensional. But most of all, it's ideas are profound. Larry's search is so heart-felt. I love his conversation with the Maugham character about God. Why would God want to be worshipped? I remember thinking those same exact things years ago. (Maybe why I like it so much is that Larry's questions mimic many of my own. My fundamentalist father would hate RE.) What do you all think about Maugham putting himself in the narrator role? It made the book seem like a memoir, and naive person that I am, if I had not read the Curtis introduction, I would have probably thought the whole thing was true. Sherry TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (12 of 23), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Monday, February 04, 2002 06:14 PM That "reality" element is something which really helped set the whole into place for me -- Maugham lays out the whole as though he is basing these people on real persons and taking great care NOT to reveal too much. The kiss and tell without the tell -- come to think of it that is what is wrong with many modern day attempts at such writing -- they aim to tell a serious story based in reality or on some general aspects of that perception but inevitably there is either too little or too much somehow. Does this make any sense? I could sit and take RE and lay out each bit and somehow feel I should be able to locate identify and further explore these characters -- it feels that real -- that complete and full. Dottie Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end. Every choice is a world made new for the chosen. Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (13 of 23), Read 33 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@aol.com Date: Monday, February 04, 2002 08:24 PM There's plenty of political incorrectness in Razor's Edge: Maugham tells us that Elliott hates Jews (in 1944, no less). And then there's Gray's "nigger in a woodpile" comment at the end. These things tend to stop me in my tracks as I read them in 2002. But, by contrast, Larry seems so free from such bigotries. It seems like Larry could be happy in any company, and doesn't need to make himself better than someone else. Strike now, or else the iron cools. - W. Shakespeare MAP TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (14 of 23), Read 32 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Tuesday, February 05, 2002 12:26 PM Barb, your comment that Elliott and Larry are as opposite as you can get is right on. I like the idea that these two characters are two opposing aspects of Maugham's personality, making THE RAZOR'S EDGE not so much a roman a clef as a roman a moi (probably terrible French but it's a joke.) Maugham's narrator persona is one who spans the social spectrum, who is friends with Suzanne and Princess Novemali alike, free of the social divisions of his time, affording him the necessary experience to write more fully about life around him. Larry mirrors this in his spiritual quest, recognizing that wisdom can be found anywhere in the social and cultural diversity of the world. Larry's habit of not giving out his address made sense because it freed him from the social obligations of his strata. Being unreachable and telling Elliott that he doesn't do lunch was his way of saying: "I don't do society." MAP, I loved the passage you quoted about sacrifice. And like Sherry, I also had objections to the beliefs that Maugham so shrewdly questions. The whole Larry/Maugham cosmological discussion is fascinating. And such deliciously wicked wit: "Elliott had always felt that nature was an impediment to the social life, and he had no patience with people who could bother to go to see a lake or a mountain when they had before their eyes a Regency commode or a painting by Watteau." "In the library, which was to be Gray's den, [the interior designer] had been inspired by a room in the Amalienberg Palace at Munich, and except that there was no place in it for books it was perfect." And at a tea party in Paris, Maugham describes the chic Anti-Larry guests: "They talked with inanity in a loud, metallic voice without a moment's pause, as though afraid that if they were silent for an instant the machine would run down and the artificial construction which was all they were would fall to pieces……..'Charming women,' said Elliott when he came back from seeing the two poor painted drabs to the door. 'I knew them when they first settled in Paris. I never dreamt they'd turn out as well as they have.'" Robt TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (15 of 23), Read 31 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, February 05, 2002 12:45 PM Robt: I had forgotten the great description you quote, They talked with inanity in a loud, metallic voice without a moment's pause, as though afraid that if they were silent for an instant the machine would run down... but it gave me chills when I read it. That's exactly the way most social situations have always seemed to me. How can people talk for hours at a time, without ever stopping to think, reflect, or just let their brain rest? Maybe that's why I tend to lean toward Thoreau's dictum, "There is no companion so companionable as silence." CRs excepted, of course...{G} >>Dale in Ala. TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (16 of 23), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Jody Richael Date: Tuesday, February 05, 2002 05:19 PM I logged on to quickly read some comments and post some thoughts but it seems that once you start thinking about this book you just can’t stop! I am still trying to pull all my thoughts together on this book. I have read other WSM books but I don’t know how I managed never to read this one until now. The main reason I enjoyed this book is that it touches on so many issues that are still relevant today (and probably will always be relevant). In this book I think WSM poses questions dealing with a person’s duty in this world, each person’s purpose in life, the balance between selfishness and self-sacrifice and more. Each character seems to have a different answer to these questions and the narrator is so non-judgmental about them. I wonder if Larry is so fascinating to the narrator because the narrator likes the answers Larry seems to find or just because Larry is so different from mainstream humanity? I loved the full-development of so many different characters as it helped you to get to know Larry through comparison. Regarding the title, this quote was in the front of my copy: "The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard." Katha-Upanishad I'll have to think about that some more. Jody (I hope this doesn't post twice - my first try disappeared somehow). TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (17 of 23), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Tuesday, February 05, 2002 06:00 PM I nominated this book. As it turned out, the other nominations were so good that this is the only one of my own for which I voted. This was a bit of a shot in the dark. I knew that the story had some interesting subject matter but I had never read Maugham. Like the rest of you, I was very pleased by the quality of the writing. Mary Ann in note 5 wrote: I've been thinking about the title as having something to do with the razor that killed Sophie. The title refers to the first words of the novel, the quote from the Katha-Upanishad, “The sharp edge of the razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say [that] the path to Salvation is hard.” This says that it is difficult to walk along the path to “salvation” because it is so thin. It is difficult to find a balance in life and it is uncomfortable when we do. It is far easier to take an extreme position than to maintain a balance. For me, the most balanced people in the book were Suzanne and Maugham. Elliot and Larry represented opposite extremes. Robert in note 14 wrote: Larry… in his spiritual quest, recogniz[ed] that wisdom can be found anywhere in the social and cultural diversity of the world. I don’t agree with this because if it were true Larry could have found it exactly where he was and would not have left Isabel. Throughout all his searching Larry found no “purpose” but he did find what he was really after: a solace to his anxieties of mortality and survivor guilt. Dale in note 10 wrote: If Isabel had it all to do over again, would she have chosen to go on the road with Larry and take life come-what-may? And if so, do you think their pairing would have lasted through the years? When Isabel was trying to make the decision whether to stay with Larry or not, I was routing for her to leave him. I think that she made the right choice. Their values were never reconciled. Larry’s search was extremely self-centred. It was best for Isabel not to form a relationship with someone who could not find fulfillment in relationships. Dean. All roads lead to roam. TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (18 of 23), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@aol.com Date: Tuesday, February 05, 2002 09:09 PM Robert, you've reminded me, by quoting the passage on the "metallic voices" that while reading I was thinking about the x-ray socialites in Bonfire of the Vanities. Maugham captures the shallowness of the social scene, what it means to get invited, and then stay on the list indefinitely, all while being of the process himself. He writes it so it is not out-and-out ridicule, so he probably still got invitations to all the best parties after this book was published. Also, the passage about Gray's den not having any books reminded me that Elliott's den did have books. But they were pornographic, and thus behind locked grills. Books are pretty much off limits to this set. Imagine the narrator's surprise at seeing Larry absorbed in reading for 10 hours. Nothing that can be can come between me and the full prospect of my hopes. - W. Shakespeare MAP TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (19 of 23), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, February 05, 2002 09:21 PM Jody: Thanks for clarifying where the "razor's edge" of the title comes from. My library copy, which is literally falling to pieces from much use, didn't include that reference. Or, maybe that piece just fell out.{G} Funny, but a similar concept is in the Judeo-Christian scriptures too, just in different metaphors: "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven," and "Straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth to salvation..." The idea of making one's way toward the truth across a straight-and-narrow razor blade is a whole 'nother image, though, and as you say it merits some extra thought. Good point, I think, about Maugham being so non-judgmental of these bizarrely different types of people. Yet another triumph of his wonderful writing. >>Dale in Ala. TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (20 of 23), Read 18 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, February 06, 2002 01:03 PM Here is the complete poem whose first line Maugham inscribed in the copy of his novel which he gave to Sophie. My translation follows. Ode à Cassandre Pierre De Ronsard Odes, livre premier, XV11 Mignonne, allons voir si la rose Qui ce matin avait déclose Sa robe de pourpre au soleil, A point perdu cette vesprée Les plis de sa robe pourprée, Et son teint au vôtre pareil. Las ! voyez comme en peu d'espace, Mignonne, elle a dessus la place, Las, las ses beautés laissé choir ! O vraiment marâtre nature, Puisqu'une telle fleur ne dure Que du matin jusques au soir ! Donc, si vous me croyez, mignonne, Tandis que votre âge fleuronne En sa plus verte nouveauté, Cueillez, cueillez votre jeunesse : Comme à cette fleur, la vieillesse Fera ternir votre beauté. Ode to Cassandra Sweet little one, let us see if the rose, Which this morning revealed Her crimson dress to the sun, Has not lost this evening The folds of her regal gown And her tint so like yours. Alas, look how in a short time, Sweet little one, she has over the place beneath, Alas, alas, let her beauty fall! O truly cruel mother nature, Since a flower such as this lasts But from morning until evening! And so, if you have faith in me, sweet little one, While your youth blossoms In its most verdant newness, Gather, gather your youth: As with this flower, old age Will tarnish your beauty. Dean. All roads lead to roam. TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (21 of 23), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@aol.com Date: Wednesday, February 06, 2002 07:42 PM Dean & Jody, Thanks for the Razor's Edge quote. My library book was falling apart as I read it, and the quote was not part of it. Nothing that can be can come between me and the full prospect of my hopes. - W. Shakespeare MAP TOP |
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (22 of 23), Read 16 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Thursday, February 07, 2002 12:05 AM Dean, So glad that you nominated this superb novel. Regarding Larry's quest: I don't think Larry recognized that wisdom could be found anywhere in the diversity of the world until after he had searched for years. After much experience he realized that he had gathered insight from all his encounters and had gained tremendous value from not confining his exploration to any single social sphere in the manner of Elliott Templeton. What Larry understood after the war was that he had no desire to live his life according the the expectations of his social setting and this led to his moving onto something else. What he was looking for he didn't exactly know, but he was true to his desire to pursue something different. I also don't see this as "extremely self-centred" but rather as being honest and authentic. He was following an inner lead instead of an outer one and he was forthright about this with Isabel. Larry was too aware and considerate of those around him to be characterized as self-centered. Also, I feel that Larry did find purpose, and that was to live his life on his own terms, in harmony with others. Robt
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (23 of 23), Read 12 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, February 07, 2002 02:20 AM Thanks, Robert and Mary Ann. You make a good point, Robert. Larry was honest and considerate. What I meant was a less negative connotation of self-centred in the sense that Larry's search for self-realization emphasised self more than relationships. I think that Elliott was very similar to Larry in this way but within a different sphere. Nor do I mean to imply that entering a relationship to which one is not completely committed is any better. I felt that Larry was about to do just that with Sophie. Did anyone else get this feeling? The result is that I think that Larry was not balanced in the sense implied by the opening quote. I don't begrudge Larry his chosen life style but I don't begrudge Elliott his either. Each sought fulfillment on his own terms. Nor can I extol the choice of one over the choice of the other. I equate them and place each at opposite ends far from the razor's edge: a perfect balance. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (24 of 24), Read 1 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Jody Richael Date: Thursday, February 07, 2002 12:04 PM Dean - very interesting idea about the razor's edge representing the balance that is difficult to find in life. I'll have to think some more about that one. It could apply to many different aspects of the characters. I would also agree that Larry is selfish as is every other character in the book. This doesn't have to be negative -it just depends on where you think the right balance (or razor's edge) is with selfishness/selflessness. I liked the way the book is summed up in the end with the following: "For all the persons with whom I have been concerned got what they wanted: Elliot social eminence; Isabel an assured position backed by a substantial fortune in an active and cultured community; Gray a steady and lucrative job, with an office to go to from nine till six every day; Suzanne Rouvier security; Sophie death; and Larry happiness." When I read that it made me wonder if the true measure of a man(woman) is his success in achieving his life’s purpose (whatever that may be) or if the true measure of a man is what he chooses for his life's purpose? Jody
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (25 of 52), Read 56 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, February 07, 2002 07:47 PM I have avoided reading these notes until I finished the book, which I did this afternoon. Thanks, Dean, for nominating it. I like this the best of anything I have read by Maugham, including OF HUMAN BONDAGE, A MOON AND SIXPENCE, THE PAINTED VEIL, and various short stories. Maugham certainly knew how to tell a tale and draw a character, didn't he? Like many of you, I also found Larry's search for religious meaning fascinating. Great notes, everyone. Dale, Isabel and Larry would have made each other totally miserable and she was wise to break the engagement. Isabel is my favorite character in the book, not because she is likable, but because she is so well drawn. What about Larry and Sophie? Could they ever have made each other happy? Or was Isabel right about them?
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (26 of 52), Read 55 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, February 07, 2002 11:31 PM Thanks, Ann. It was a toss up between RE and "Of Human Bondage." Having read neither, I'm glad that this one found favour with you and the others. Jody, Maugahm's quote shows a definite detachment. He cared for and was accessible to all the others. He never passed judgment or tried to influence others. I thought that he was the most balanced character in the book. Your question is very interesting. The idea of a successful life implies a value system by which we can evaluate a life. Your question bases this value system on: - The existence of a purpose which implies pre-determination. - The purpose chosen by a person which implies free will. Can we be sure that a person has a pre-determined purpose? If so how does a person know it? Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (27 of 52), Read 56 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ernie Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Friday, February 08, 2002 01:11 AM Dean, I like to congratulate you for your choice as well. Often, after reading a book, I will be emotionally moved to the point when I think it was the finest book I ever read. But with time I arrive at a more realistic appraisal. Now this time I am more certain that it is one of the best I ever read perhaps because the book that appeals to me personally the most. I am within a few pages of the end and have a few comments. In a way I see Larry and Elliott both striving for the ultimate and only in this respect they are similar. But they were striving in opposite directions. Elliott's goal was the ultimate in social success, to be on top of the heap so to say. Larry also wanted the ultimate and achieved it by finding peace within himself. I see Maugham as the ultimate kindly spectator and somewhat in between and more of the average person with all the flaws and virtues of mankind. He just watched, listened and occasional commented with common sense. Robert, when you described Elliott's quarters designed by the ultimate interior decorator you noted there was no room for books and it would follow that Elliott never gave reading a thought. Well he did read, in a way. He had a collection of 18h and 19th Century Pornography books. So he did have an education but of a special sort. Now I must deal with lovely Isabel and plain Sophie. Could Isabel ever forgive Sophie for being loved by Larry? Certainly not, but she eventually was "so helpful" taking her to the best dressmaker and leaving her at her house with a bottle of the most refined liqueur? Did Isabel do her in on purpose? Was it an unconscious act? Was it the ultimate meanness Isabel could come with? Gray is a fine man who has taken a serious fall due to the 1929 economic depression. Would he ever overcome having lost his money and letting his customers down? He must have realized that his wife was in love with Larry but up to the point where I am now, this has not been an issue in their marriage. Incidentally the arm levitation thing is real and well known. Most anyone can learn to induce levitation as part of partial hypnosis. One of our local professors of surgery (UCSF) used this routinely prior to surgery to reduce the level of anesthetics. He was teaching this technique to his students. I am making the point that this act is not the result of ultimate enlightenment. Ernie
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (28 of 52), Read 53 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Friday, February 08, 2002 02:11 AM Thanks, Ernie. I'm beginning to feel that I may have returned the favour of all the great reading experiences which I have had since coming here. Also, I'm pleased that you reminded me of the dedication of Gray and his father to the welfare of their clients. What Gray's father did for his customers was genuinely virtuous. I thought that Maugham was showing that the distinction between "material" and "spiritual" was essentially meaningless. This was mirrored when Elliott received financial advice from the Vatican. What Isabel did to Sophie seems less evil if one considers that her motive was to test Sophie in order to protect Larry. That Sophie failed the test, however, was irrelevant to their future happiness as a couple. Although, as Mary Ann said, Isabel had her hand on the razor, Sophie's decision not to go back to Larry was a factor in her eventual death. I'm still not sure of Larry's love for Sophie. I remember thinking that they were together because of their respective encounters with death. I'm not sure how long they would have lasted or how happy they would have been together. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (29 of 52), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Friday, February 08, 2002 07:05 AM Thank you, Dean, for your serendipitous nomination of The Razor's Edge. It has become one of my favorite books, and I am sure I will reread it. I don't think I would have ever read it, had it not been on the CC list. Ernie, I don't think Larry assumed that the hand levitation thing was due to Enlightenment. He explained how he learned that little hypnotic trick and it was way before his "experience." But it's interesting to note that the method works. I have heard of it before, too. The mind is such a fascinating subject. Sherry
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (30 of 52), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, February 08, 2002 11:26 AM IMHO Isabel would have stopped at nothing to prevent Sophie from marrying Larry. I don't think she was giving her a "test" to see if she was worthy. That explanation was simply an attempt to justify her behavior to Maugham. Really it's too bad that Isabel didn't sleep with Larry a time or two to get him out of her system. It was obvious the two were temperamentally totally unsuited to each other. Larry seemed to be able to take sex or leave it alone-- almost always the latter. The introduction to my copy suggests that, like Maugham, he may have been a homosexual, but I think it would be much more fair to describe him as asexual. I liked Maugham's technique of inserting himself into the story. It made it seem much truer. Also, how convenient for Maugham that the book paints him as such a kind and generous friend. In real life, I think he was supposed to be very difficult. Yet in the book, he is extremely attentive to Elliot while he is dying and he is so generous to Sophie, whom he hardly knows, that he not only identifies her body but pays for her funeral. I wish I had more friends like him. I found Larry's explanations of the reincarnation and the eventual merger with the Absolute extremely interesting. I could really get attached to this idea of reincarnation, were it not for the fact that even if it were true, you might as well have ceased to exist if you have no conscious memory of previous lives.
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (31 of 52), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Jody Richael Date: Friday, February 08, 2002 12:52 PM Your response on purposes in life raises some interesting issues again. I suppose my question implies that I believe there are some purposes which are more worthy than others. For example, I would not say Elliot had chosen a worthy purpose for his life (achieving and maintaining social eminence). What I find very interesting about this book is that the author doesn’t seem to be promoting (or discrediting) any given purpose or value. He finds value or at least good in all the characters. The book seems to be more about the search and the struggle and the many similarities that run throughout humanity despite the different answers people arrive at. Also, I don’t know that each person’s purpose is predetermined. I think we do have the ability to choose our own purpose but I think that there is a value system which those choices are judged by and therefore some choices are better than others. I only had a minute to write but I would like to get back to this later. Ann - I also find the idea of reincarnation to be very interesting and I can see how some can believe in it although I personally don’t. Jody
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (32 of 52), Read 53 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Friday, February 08, 2002 02:35 PM Ernie, It’s a pattern of mine as well to feel that the book I just read is one of my favorites while I’m still in its thrall. However, I am convinced that THE RAZOR’S EDGE will be among my all time favorite novels. (Ask me next year how I feel.) This book was a joy to read. Ann and Jody, The tradition in which I grew up reviles the notion of reincarnation but over the years I have adopted it into my belief system. The aspect of it that I don’t believe is that we are making up for past behaviors in each lifetime, ever reaching to opt out of the life cycle. In fact, I have trouble with a lot of Eastern belief, but reincarnation itself makes sense to me. What I related to about Larry was that he was willing to adopt beliefs that were outside of his own tradition and he allowed himself to be the final judge. Robt
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (33 of 52), Read 41 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Saturday, February 09, 2002 02:56 AM Thanks, Sherry. Ann, it would be difficult for me to defend Isabel against your view. I would have to hope for a sympathetic jury. Jody, yes, it's a tricky subject. Here I would like to make another distinction. "Purpose" from the point of view of an individual means the goals and aims which e chooses for erself. The degree to which a person has the power to choose er purpose depends on culture. So, given the freedom which our culture allows each individual, how do we establish a standard for valuing an individual's life? "Purpose" as in "the purpose of life" is a more tenuous concept. It is meaningful only if there is some entity which is benefiting from life or which has set a goal for life. In other words, "god." To say that life must have a purpose is to say that there must be a "god." This is circular reasoning. This leaves me with the idea that any specifically stated purpose for life must be inadequate. This idea makes me smile. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (34 of 52), Read 41 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, February 09, 2002 05:22 PM Ann, I agree with you that Isabel should have slept with Larry and gotten him out of her system. I think she felt the same as she got older. She seemed to be so incredibly sensual and he was more of an aesthetic, it seems to me. I can't imagine them being very well matched in bed. Was anyone else struck by that scene in which she almost seems to be having an orgasm gazing at the fine hairs on Larry's wrist during a car ride? As I read, I found it a very erotic description until Maugham described the look on her face: It was a mask of lust. I should never have believed that her beautiful features could assume an expression of such unbridled sensuality. It was animal rather than human. The beauty was stripped from her face; the look upon it made her hideous and frightening. It horribly suggested the bitch in heat and I felt rather sick. It was the one place in the book when I thought Maugham missed the mark, where his own private lack may have interfered with his ability to write the character. Does anyone think I'm wrong and that his reaction actually did fit? I thought he had done an excellent job previously of painting Isabel's sexuality and then suddenly he is sickened by her obvious lust. Dean, I do know what you and others here mean by Larry being centered on a journey of the self. I've known people who remind me a bit of Larry and they don't lead lives that include other people, except for short periods. I think that pairing with anyone would have been a disaster, ultimately, for the other person. And, Sophie and Isabel were the farthest thing from good prospective candidates. Barb
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (35 of 52), Read 42 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, February 09, 2002 06:01 PM Barb, Well, I do remember thinking when I read the description that I had never actually seen anyone's face disfigured by lust--maybe some bad guy rapist in the movies, but never in real life. I think it very possible that Maugham found strong sexual feelings in women "inappropriate." I was very interested in your comment that you had known people somewhat like Larry and the observation that their lives did not include other people. I wonder if these intense, and quite exclusive spiritual journeys are somewhat selfish. Do you suppose that at the end of a life devoted to the search for spiritual significance, Larry felt that it had all been rather empty? Ann
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (36 of 52), Read 41 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Jody Richael Date: Saturday, February 09, 2002 06:43 PM Dean - I agree that ‘purpose’ for an individual would be the goals and aims which are chosen. Culture does impact that to an extent but I think there are many purposes which are cross-cultural including many of the ones demonstrated in the novel (social eminence, security, contribution to society, inner peace, material wealth (however that is defined in each culture). Of course there are also the standard values like dedication to family, learning selflessness, obedience to one’s god, and so on. Each person has to decide for themselves what standards they will use to judge their life choices and others. We will never all agree on one standard but every person comes up with something (even if it is that life has no purpose). I guess you have convinced me that to say that life must have a purpose is to say that there must be a God or at least a continuation of life after this one of some sort. I’m not sure what you mean by, “any specifically stated purpose for life must be inadequate“. I’m curious - can you elaborate?
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (37 of 52), Read 37 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ernie Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Sunday, February 10, 2002 12:20 AM Looks like I was not the only one who was shocked by Maugham's disgust when he noted Elisabeth's facial expression of lust. I feel certain that this was due to his own sexual identity problems. Hate to admit it but I always had a difficult time understanding this matter of re-incarnation which seems to be an essential part of some Eastern religions. I think that it is due to man kind's inability to accept death as final. When I wrote my previous note I had not read the last 50 pages. They dealt in part with Maugham accusing Elisabeth of killing Sophie. Elisabeth finally admits to having created the powerful temptation for Sophie. But there is another aspect to the story. Perhaps she had the intuition that Sophie's marriage to Larry may have destroyed the "seeker" in him. Larry as a married man would not have been exposed to mysticism and achieved what he wanted to achieve. So perhaps Elisabeth's actions were not as contemptible as I had considered them at one point and may have been protective of Larry as well. Larry had the courage of facing life in New York pennyless during depression days without a penny in his pocket. I would have avoided that at all cost. Ernie
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (38 of 52), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Sunday, February 10, 2002 08:03 AM Barb and Ernie, I remember quite well being puzzled by that description of lust on Isabel's face. I agree that it was one of the only times that Maugham missed the mark. He must have had some real fear of women's passion to have come up with that distorted face image. I can't really imagine what it must have looked like. That's not my idea of what a face transported by longing and desire would look like. Sherry
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (39 of 52), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Sunday, February 10, 2002 09:35 AM Wow -- I am way out of the loop here it seems. I thought Maugham had Isabel truly pegged there in that scene -- she seemed to me to be the ultimate consumer of men -- Gray only existed for her to satisfy her own desires. I don't mean the family needs and the supporter of the life which in those times was the way of it -- the man out working and so on -- her cravings -- whatever they were. Think Black Widow Spider here people. I thought that was the most revelatory scene concerning Isabel's true being. That scene gave a quick flash of the truth behind Isabel's actions throughout the story I felt. Dottie Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end. Every choice is a world made new for the chosen. Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (40 of 52), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, February 10, 2002 11:24 AM Dottie, Hmmm-- Black Widow Spider seems extreme to me. As Ernie pointed out, marriage to Sophie would not exactly have been a good thing for Larry, and Isabel obviously managed to justify her behavior to herself on those grounds. It's harder for me to understand how she rationalized what she did to Sophie, although she repeatedly stated her conviction that Sophie's addictions and promiscuity only revealed that she was rotten at the core and there was no hope of redemption. There goes that old double standard applied to women again, which certainly couldn't have persisted for so many centuries if women had not adhered to it. Her reaction to Sophie seems plausible to me, in the context of the culture of the 1930's. Isabel was a loyal and supportive wife, an intelligent and entertaining companion, a woman of great self control who willed herself into becoming a beauty, and she was strong enough to listen to Maugham's brutally honest attacks on her behavior without severing the relationship. All in all, I found Maugham's portrait of this character convincing and even attractive. Through his characters, Maugham makes comments about American culture. What do you think about the assertion that in the United States, your value is defined by your work? True?
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (41 of 52), Read 43 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, February 10, 2002 11:40 AM My reaction to Isabel was similar to Dottie's. Unlike most here, I didn't care for Isabel, and considered her to be an emotional vulture. I don't think Maugham's description of her lusting for Larry, was a reflection of his own preferences, but as a brutally honest account of this woman's basic nature. And, I think (the character) Maugham was as stunned as the reader by this. I thought she was highly manipulative from the get go. Her refusal to marry Larry was not because she thought them to be incompatible, but because she believed he would alter his plans for her. It was in essence, an ultimatum..and I truly believe this. She proceeds later to provide alcohol to a woman who is trying to change her life for the man she loves...more than Isabel ever thought of doing..again, manipulative and completely self serving. Beej
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (42 of 52), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, February 10, 2002 10:10 PM Thanks for your take on this, Beej and Dottie. I can see how this might have been and, perhaps, that is what Maugham was trying to convey. It would mean that he was less off the mark than I thought. However, it doesn't mesh with my sense of Isabel. I didn't find her terribly admirable in some aspects though I was certainly impressed with her support of Gray when he was down. But, I did find her brutally honest most of the time. That honesty helped her make the right decision about marrying Larry. She knew that wasn't a life she could lead and she was right. Ann, I definitely think that the kind of search that Larry was undertaking is essentially solitary. I don't think that is a bad thing unless there are other people involved who expect to have a more connected relationship. Ernie, I had the same reaction that you did (and that Maugham did) about Larry's willingness to go to New York with no money. I kept rooting for him to put a little money back...just in case. Barb
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (43 of 52), Read 28 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@aol.com Date: Sunday, February 10, 2002 10:40 PM Rather than thinking Maugham as asexual, I thought he was quite smitten with Isabel. She was the only character he describes physically so fully. And you know from his description that she is a beauty. He has looked her up and down as only as man can look at a woman, and liked what he saw. My take on his revulsion by the mask of lust was that it marred what he saw as her pure beauty and it was not meant for him. Dean, I imagine that Larry and Sophie's marriage would have lasted as long as Larry could have made it last. Sophie is the type who would have bolted before long. Nothing that can be can come between me and the full prospect of my hopes. - W. Shakespeare MAP
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (44 of 52), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ernie Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Sunday, February 10, 2002 11:48 PM First of all my apologies for changing Isabel's name to Elisabeth. This may have been due to, what may be called, an extended Senior Moment. Isn't it strange that a number of us zeroed in at Isabel's facial expression of lust which as Maugham saw it, distorted her pretty face? Another focal point of this book pertains to the Maugham-Isabel confrontation. He called a spade a spade namely that Isabell in fact had killed Sophie. Isabel at first hedged, then ended up admitting that she tempted Sophie on purpose to prevent the marriage. But the most amazing and unexpected happened: Maugham and Isabel remained on speaking terms and their relationship did not suffer. Does "Work" define the people, their social status, etc. in the U.S. I always believed that this was very much so both in the US and Europe as well especially prior to WW II. Having lived both in Central Europe and the US during this period I can agree to that. But I would say that Europeans were much more concerned with work-status than Americans. Once more, having lived through depression days both in the US and Europe it is inconceivable that a person would voluntarily give away whatever money they had. Ernie
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (45 of 52), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, February 11, 2002 08:18 AM How does the song go?..'Don't fall in love with a dreamer?' I don't think any woman would have been suited to deal with Larry. I take it he was searching for some sort of meaning to life after witnessing the death of his friend, but he devoted so much of his life to determine 'meaning,' that he seemed to sacrifice any real, concrete purpose to his own life. He was too ethereal..too otherworldly, for such a practical person as Isabel. Beej
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (46 of 52), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Monday, February 11, 2002 09:22 AM It's interesting that Larry didn't believe in reincarnation either. He told Maugham that he neither believed or disbelieved in it. Regarding Isabel: I think she lost something of herself when she turned down Larry's marriage proposal. Regardless of whether or not her marriage to Larry would have been a success, she did love him; but over the years something hardened within her. She was not without compassion, as evidenced by her loyalty and goodness to Gray after their financial ruin, but there was a lack of "tenderness" as Maugham told Isabel the last time he saw her. I thought Isabel's actions toward Sophie to be more motivated by jealousy rather than to save Larry as she tells Maugham. If she wasn't going to have Larry then no one was. Larry was such a resourceful guy that I'm not ready to assume that his potential marriages to Isabel and Sophie would have been disasters. Not every alcoholic/addict is a lost cause and who knows what would have happened. Sophie was presented as the potential Mrs. Durrell during her most vulnerable stage of recovery. Isabel betrayed her heartlessly. In the end Isabel would have been an unsurpassable social force in her Texas mansion with Elliott's Monets, money and mentoring. Robt
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (47 of 52), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, February 11, 2002 09:46 AM What a great note, Robert. Your insights are almost always right on the mark, and make things so much clearer. I admired Larry. In fact, I fell a little bit in love with him. But, I believe anybody this idealistic and this absorbed by spiritual journey, would have been emotionally devastated by all the realities of marriage and raising children. Beej
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (48 of 52), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Monday, February 11, 2002 10:56 AM Robert: Great note. When you say that "something hardened in Isabel" after her breakup with Larry, I think you really cut to the chase of her character. It was this same hardness, I think, that Maugham was troubled by in that wonderfully erotic scene with Larry in the car, sunlight on arm hairs, etc. There can be a very fine line between passion and hardness, and I think Maugham spotted it. I know Isabel could be charming and even selfless at times, but I could never really warm up to her, not even at the beginning. "Willful" is another word that comes to my mind. Even her relationship with her daughters was a somewhat formal one; it was Gray they idolized. I would not put Isabel completely in the class of the Alice Munro character in the story "The Bear Went Over the Mountain," who "would be useful in a disaster, taking shoes from dead bodies in the street," but neither would I ever want to be on Isabel's bad side for half a second. There are some women who are almost like a force of nature in that regard, as Sophie learned the hard way. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (49 of 52), Read 15 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Monday, February 11, 2002 03:15 PM Dale, Well I certainly wouldn't want Isabel for a close friend, but I think I would enjoy socializing with her and watching her in action from a discrete distance. Ann
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (50 of 52), Read 15 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Monday, February 11, 2002 04:03 PM Jody said, "I’m not sure what you mean by, 'any specifically stated purpose for life must be inadequate'. I’m curious - can you elaborate? Here's how I came to it. Although an individual can find a purpose in life, no one can find a purpose for life. We can generate concepts only from our experience. Any purpose which we could state for life would be merely a concept generated from our experience. Life is always bigger than our experience. So any purpose which we could name would be inadequate. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (51 of 52), Read 15 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Monday, February 11, 2002 09:12 PM This idea of Isabel losing something of herself after she parted with Larry is interesting, Robt. I think you're right. It makes sense that Maugham, as writer not narrator, would have intended that. I had assumed that it was the process of growing older that did it, but if she could have maintained the relationship with someone like Larry, it could have kept those edges softer. Maugham's emphasis on her lack of tenderness and beauty, that was almost willed to be so, fits with this. Barb
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (52 of 52), Read 4 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Tuesday, February 12, 2002 09:34 AM As I was reading along in this book, I had a sudden start when Larry and Isabel first came into the room. I thought, her finance is Larry Darrell, the writer? So I hopped on over to my shelf, picked up Justine and realized I was off by a vowel. Still, Durrell was a contemporary of Maugham's. The bio in the front of Justine says he was born in India and lived there for his first 10 years. His first book was published in 1938, although Justine wasn't published until 1957. Does anyone know if the two knew each other or see any similarities between the two? I haven't actually read anything by Durrell. I keep coming back to the end of TRE when Maugham submits that everyone got what they wanted. Not so sure I agree with him there. In the beginning of the book when Maugham is speaking directly to the reader, he makes some patently untrue observations about his book -- namely that it does not end with either a death or a marriage when in fact we have both. I'm kind of thinking he's making a neat little statement about them all getting what they wanted, but not sure if he even believes that himself. If you asked any of these people if they had gotten what they wanted, I think most of them (with the possible exception of Suzanne) would say no. Gray didn't want the depression to happen and go through so much struggle. He just wanted to work continuously. Isabel may have gotten the security she wanted, but she didn't get Larry and I think she is more focused on that in many ways than she is focused on what she does have. Sophie didn't really want death -- she wanted an intact family and happy family life. Elliott wanted the social status and I'm sure he would say he got that, but he was bitterly disappointed at the end of his life as he saw it all fall away. And Larry may have been happy the last time Maugham saw him, but that was prior to his crazy social experiment. Who knows what really happened with him? Really, who knows what happened with any of them? When we leave these characters, most of them are in their early 30s. They have a lot of life to live still. And how can you judge a success story as a success story when you only know about half the story? It seems a bit premature to declare that these people have had successful lives. I started reading Half a Life by V S Naipaul this morning. The father of the main character claims to be Maugham's inspiration for Larry's Indian spiritual leader. Pretty funny story about how he came to be sitting in the temple when Maugham came to India to do research for TRE. Puts a whole new spin on just how 'real' a spiritual experience is and how other people perceive the spiritual experience of others. Karen
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (53 of 54), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Jody Richael Date: Tuesday, February 12, 2002 05:02 PM Karen - I remember having the same thought that it seemed premature to state that each character had succeeding in getting what they wanted out of life when they were still in the middle of their lives. I also started wondering if they really did get what they wanted out of life (I still have a hard time believing Sophie wanted death). However, I do think they each did get what they wanted even if they didn't realize it themselves. Each also had to go through some sort of struggle to achieve what they really wanted in life. I think Elliot's dissatisfaction with the social scene in the end was not remorse for his having made social eminence his main focus in life but remorse that he was losing it. Jody
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (54 of 54), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, February 12, 2002 05:07 PM Jody writes: I think Elliot's dissatisfaction with the social scene in the end was not remorse for his having made social eminence his main focus in life but remorse that he was losing it. Good point, Jody. I agree. Incidentally, it reminds me of possibly my favorite short-story title from Flannery O'Connor: "You Can't Be Any Poorer Than Dead." >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Razor's Edge Discussion (55 of 55), Read 16 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ernie Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2002 12:06 AM Dale, I have been looking forward to your comments, your wisdom and sense of humor. I almost always agree with your opinion which is no surprise as we are not strangers to each other. Karen, I have read a number of books by both Durrell and Maugham. While the former is a fine and interesting writer with a special style and a feel for the country he writes about, Maugham seems way way superior to him. His writing is smooth and connected and I feel close to him. I feel I understand him as a writer and as a person. Ernie

 

 
W. Somerset Maugham
W. Somerset Maugham

 
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