Sunday, July 21, 2019

Of Human BondageOf Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Look, I admit to being a W. Somerset Maugham fanboy ever since I watched Bill Murray in Razor's Edge. One of my favorite movies and afterward, one of my favorite books. Oddly enough, however, I didn't get around to reading Of Human Bondage until very long after. Why? Because I made the mistake of watching the classic adaptation of it first. I'm talking Bette Davis, baby. She pulled off such a trip of a Mildred that I have forever hated (or loved to hate) the very IDEA of Bette Davis and/or any portrayal of Mildred in the novel enough that I became downright TREPIDATIOUS, man.

I got the FEARS, man. The fears!

But I got better, see? I got over those fears and read the damn book, see?

And it has everything. Including my undying hate for Phil's stupidity over Mildred. But so much more!
It has the full gamut of the human condition, from childhood raised in strict Anglican Christianity to total disillusionment, from studying to get into Oxford, changing his mind to hang out with the freaks in Germany, then France, picking up all kinds of styles and thinking habits, all well before WWI. We see Phillip go through being ostracized, being lonely, trying his hand not only at the Clergy, but being a bohemian artist, a physician, and being a love-struck fool.

When I say everything, however, I mean everything. All different ways of being, exploring who he can become before the Gen-X kicked in, of throwing off one shackle of thought after another after another... and yet, still getting caught in the toughest shackle of all: human relationships.

Did I mention I hate Mildred? Well, for all the times I really loved Phil, I hated him the most when he was in deep with this woman. So stupid! STUPID! And yet...sigh.

I may have gotten deep into this novel. It's up there with all the classics, in my humble opinion. So clear of style and dedicated to exploring what it means to be living, learning, and surviving. If you wanted to, you could trace all the philosophical greats, step-by-step, seeing how morality and ethics don't die even when you shake off the mold, or when you try your hand at completely different modes of living, one after another, to see what sticks, and all the while learning intense lessons that never feel forced. Indeed, I feel for this guy as he keeps stumbling about, just pushing himself further and further into a position where he's either following his dream or he's fooling himself. And that's just the thing, isn't it?

Neither he nor we know which it is.

And as an artist, I feel for him. Deeply. Sometimes all you can do is put one foot ahead of another and hope you're wise enough to know when you finally have a good thing.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment