Tuesday, August 04, 2009

To This We've Come

While I was in Santa Fe the other week - yes, I swear I will get to discussing The Letter, really - I stopped by the bookstore Collected Works, hoping to find the Somerset Maugham play and short story on which the new Paul Moravec opera is based. I failed, but I had what you might call a discouraging conversation with the woman at the cash register.
Me: Where would I find short stories by W. Somerset Maugham?

Her: Can you spell that? I'll check in the computer.

Me, blinking a bit: M-A-U-G-H-A-M.

Her: And her first name?

Me, just barely keeping my head off the counter: Him. Somerset. S-O-M-E-R-S-E-T.
Yes, indeed. Santa Fe's best indy bookstore has an employee who had evidently not heard of Maugham, one of the most famous and successful English writers of the 20th c., before the day I walked in.

Now, the store had plenty of Maugham in stock, including several of the major novels and a couple of volumes of short stories - no sign of The Letter in any, alas, though I did eventually find the libretto for the opera, over the in the Santa Fe Opera section.

But I was shocked to find, on the back of the Vintage edition of Cakes and Ale, the word "who's" used where "whose" was quite obviously intended.

O tempora! O mores!


Anonymous said...

I read Of Human Bondage in my teens, though none of his other stuff; I associated it with the Tormented Youth genre which also held Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Thomas Mann's story "Tonio Kröger." (Needless to say the erotic subtexts, in the Maugham and Mann anyway, went right over my head.)

But I think Morris is all out of tempura. Try the macaroni salad?

Lisa Hirsch said...

That last line, it is going right over my head.

I've read some Maugham but am not sure which works. I think Cakes and Ale, but a very long time ago, because I remember nothing about the plot. Have not read Of Human Bondage. I feel like I should read some Maugham, and maybe I will after I'm done with In the Year of Jubilee.

Tim said...

"The Moon and Sixpence" is a good short novel, based on the life of Gaugin. I also liked "The Razor's Edge" way back when. Many of the short stories are incomparable. Try "Rain" for starters.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I think I will grab a volume of the short stories!

Anonymous said...

In an effort to patronize my local classical recording store, back when we still had one, I asked the clerk one day to look up Malcolm Arnold. When it turned out that he didn't know how to spell "Malcolm", I gave up and left.

My departure was soon followed by the store's.