Of Authors, Mothers, and Maugham

MoonspinnersDuring the summer of 1979, between morning and afternoon swim-team practices, I read my way through Victoria Holt, Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Stewart, and Daphne du Maurier.

Rocking in my hammock, under a hot Idaho sun, I traveled to windswept moors dotted with heath, swooned over brooding lords of the manor, and identified with governesses, plain yet intelligent, full of thoughtful observations. They not only won over my heart but also the love of the lord, as well as solving mysteries.

But by July 31, having come to the end of my self-directed summer-reading program, I uttered the words that all parents dread.

“I’m bored,” I said. “There’s nothing to do.”

I cringe now. Nothing to do? Impossible with endless libraries to explore and subjects to study. But I was 13, restricted by immaturity and narrow-mindedness, which, of course, I never would have admitted at the time, let alone recognized.

OfHumanBondageMy mother, not one to accept boredom, took to me to the library and introduced me to another favorite author, W. Somerset Maugham. Of Human Bondage became the cure for my boredom.

I approached the book with skepticism, even though my mother had introduced me to Mary Stewart’s Moon-Spinners, the beginning of my summer-reading-binge. I soon softened, though, to the main character Phillip, and Of Human Bondage joined me in the hammock. Other Maugham novels followed. Then school began with its predictable reading lists, and I found myself daydreaming about ramshackle mansions and secrets hidden in attics.

So it was appropriate that, almost 35 years later, my mother, a life-long letter writer of extraordinary ability, sent me the following quote, taking me back to my hammock, piles of books, and endless summer days stretching as long and wide as an Idaho sky.

MoonandSixpenceFrom The Moon and Sixpence (Chapter 2) by W. Somerset Maugham: “It is a salutary discipline to consider the vast number of books that are written, the fair hopes with which their authors see them published, and the fate which awaits them.  What chance is there that the book will make its way among the multitude?  And the successful books are but the successes of a season.  Heaven knows what pains the author has been at, what bitter experiences he has endured and what heartache suffered to give some chance reader a few hours of relaxation or to while away the tedium of a journey.

And if I may judge from reviews, many of these books are well and carefully written; much thought has gone in to their compositions; to some even has been given the anxious labor of a lifetime.  The moral I draw is that the writer should see his reward in the pleasure of his work and in release from the burden of his thought; and, indifferent to aught else, care nothing for praise or censure, failure or success.”

Now another summer begins with a note on books from my mother, her ability to send the perfect message at the most appropriate time still finely tuned. Books gather around me in piles, waiting to be read. The only thing missing is my hammock, and the cupcake or two always waiting in my mother’s pantry.

Happy weekend everyone!

And if you have a moment, please share your favorite summer books and/or quotes from authors in the comment form.

6 thoughts on “Of Authors, Mothers, and Maugham

  1. Frankie Wallace June 14, 2015 / 8:36 am

    Reblogged this on Frankie Wallace and commented:
    A friend and fellow writer share these thoughtful words about summer reading … I also appreciated the Maugham quote, it is balm to my soul: “The moral I draw is that the writer should see his reward in the pleasure of his work and in release from the burden of his thought; and, indifferent to aught else, care nothing for praise or censure, failure or success” Happy reading AND writing….Frankie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erin June 14, 2015 / 10:32 pm

      Thanks, Frankie–glad you found comfort in the Maugham quote!


    • Erin June 15, 2015 / 5:15 pm

      Thanks, Cindy, I’m so glad you stopped by! It truly is a wonderful quote–a keeper, for sure.


  2. Ellen Morris Prewitt June 21, 2015 / 11:39 pm

    Your post took me back to the summer I stayed at my grandmother’s white-columned house and went to the Jackson library where I checked out every William Faulkner novel they had, which I then read one after another lolling in the air conditioning of my uncle’s room (window units, cold as ice inside when it was melting outside). Absalom, Absalom!; The Sound and the Fury; Light in August; The Snopes Trilogy. I loved him, and thought, Lord, God–why did they make us read that stupid As I Lay Dying in school when these are so wonderful? Because of my binge session, I cannot to this day tell you what story went with which novel, but I love him and the I love the memory of the summer days in Mississippi reading Faulkner. Thank you for reminding me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erin June 22, 2015 / 5:27 am

      And thank you for sharing that wonderful memory! I wish I would have appreciated those long reading summers more when I was young!


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