While I am procrastinating revising my first article from my dissertation (yes, after that productive burst, I’ve been wallowing in writerly laziness, I confess), I’ve been thinking about my second article. My second reader on my committee suggested I look at W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge as a possible starting point for one of the articles, because it might complement one of my books pretty well. I have never read anything by Maugham, though I’d heard of his more famous work, Of Human Bondage. It was an interesting read.
The Razor’s Edge follows a group of Americans and ex-pats throughout the years in the States and Europe, as they struggle with disillusionment and disaffectation. Isabel is beautiful and gracious. Her uncle Elliott is worldly and disillusioned by the United States, preferring to spend his time in Europe. Gray Maturin is an up-and-coming businessman of Irish descent, whose father’s business in Chicago promises to bring him great wealth. Sophie Macdonald is worldly and wise. And then there’s Larry Darrell, upon whom the narrative hinges. Larry is both innocent and world-wise, choosing to eschew traditional paths to find spiritual enlightenment. His paths intersect those of his friends throughout the years and through many challenging times in US history.
This is a story of the quest to find selfhood and fulfillment through various means–money, beauty, marriage, sex, travel, and study. Each of the characters is forced to confront his or her choices at some point, and the reader is left wondering how fulfilled each of them ends up being. It was an interesting read, and one I believe will push the ideas in my second article.