The Summing Up

(Nonfiction; Literary Guild of America, 1938; repr., Penguin, 1992)

W. Somerset Maugham begins The Summing Up with an explanation of what it is not. “This is not an autobiography,” he writes, “nor is it a book of recollections.” Maugham did not shy away from prodigious production in multiple genres—nearly two dozen novels, equally as many plays, and more than one hundred short stories and articles published in dozens of journals and magazines—but he rarely turned his lens inward. When, in The Summing Up, he attempts to describe the unidentified structure of his thoughts, what emerges is not fiction, nor fact, nor a diary. What this book is, he writes eventually, is an attempt “to sort out my thoughts on the subjects that have chiefly interested me during the course of my life.”

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