Pass It On

Tidbits and treats from the Sunnyvale Public Library Reference Division

Great Books September 24, 2008

We’ve set up a new display in the fiction section of the library! For the time being, we’ve devoted a shelf to spotlighting the work of classic or renown authors. Maybe the shelf will remind you of someone whose work you loved, or maybe you’ll discover new favorite authors on the display. We hope that you’ll keep these writers in mind when you’re browsing through the many offerings in our fiction collection.

First up in our Classic Authors spotlight is W. Somerset Maugham…

This picture was taken in 1933 at Maugham’s home on the French Riviera (and was retrieved from our AP Images database). Maugham looks a bit cranky in this photo — and by some accounts, cranky was his natural state. According to Contemporary Authors Online, (accessible through our Biography Resource Center subscription), Maugham was often called “cynical, cold, uncharitable.”

But if he was hard on friends and colleagues, Maugham was arguably much kinder to his readers. Described by one contemporary as “the most continuously readable storyteller of our lifetime,” Maugham’s books are engaging, with memorable characters and clear plots, and few unnecessary literary flourishes. In his A Writer’s Notebook, Maugham  described his theory of literature this way:

The fact remains that the four greatest novelists the world has ever known–Balzac, Dickens, Tolstoi and Dostoyevski–wrote their respective languages very badly. It proves that if you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write. All the same it’s better to write well than ill.

He achieved great financial success in his lifetime, making his mark with both novels and plays. Stop by our display and peruse his work for yourself — or ask a librarian to help you find a title.

(Have a suggestion for our next author spotlight? Leave us a comment here, or stop by the reference desk and let us know.)

Click here for a catalog search of works by W. Somerset Maugham.



One Response to “Great Books”

  1. Sue Kaplan Says:

    I liked your article! Just to let you know there is a spelling error second line …. “renwon”

    See, at least I was reading it carefully!

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