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Monday, May 11, 2015

The Razor's Edge (1941) by W. Somerset Maugham

Bill Murray costumed as Larry Darrell, the pilot seeker at the hear of The Razor's Edge

Book Review
The Razor's Edge (1941)
 by W. Somerset Maugham

  Bill Murray agreed to do Ghostbusters for Paramount in exchange for them financing his passion-project movie version of this book.  The movie was a horrific critical AND commercial flop, setting Back Murray's attempt to become a "serious" actor by several decades.  The Razor's Edge is an early template for the 60s era seekers novels about young men from the West seeking wisdom of the East.  In the photograph above- a scene which is only described via hearsay (Darrell describing something to another narrator who describes it to the reader)- it is already possible to see how Hollywood would mess up a movie version.

  The straightforward "boy seeks wisdom" tale is complicated by Maugham imposing  himself as a "truthful" narrator of the events.   "Maugham" consciously applies his craft to the supposedly non-fiction events, moving stories he has heard in later years into their proper place for the sake of the chronological narrative.   Like all of Maugham's novels, The Razor's Edge is much cleverer than the reader would expect with layers of characters and unexpected plot points.

 Also notable in The Razor's Edge is the way Maugham draws American characters.  I can't remember seeing such space devoted to purely American "types" in any other novel not written by an American up until this point.  Mostly, the American characters seem to say "d'ya" instead of "do you" whatever their class and station in life.

 Like all of Maugham's books, The Razor's Edge is under three hundred page and acute and funny.  The American characters add interest for a potential American audience, which seems to be consistent.  The edition I checked out from the San Diego Public Library was a Vintage Books paperback published in 2003.

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