We gathered at Rob’s for new member Clive's debut reading - a short story called Old Friends. Both Linda and I were initially put off by the golf club lounge setting of the opening scene but still the story managed to engage and everybody admired Clive’s acute ear for dialogue, much of which sounded completely natural, as if it were real conversation overheard. Annie was very taken with the character of the annoying waiter, commenting he was ‘annoying in a really good way '. She wanted the waiter to go away so she could continue eavesdropping on the other characters’ conversation - proof of the compelling nature of Clive’s storytelling. But it was Rob who really hit the nail on the head when he observed how Old Friends - a rather old-fashioned, highly moralistic tale in which the good are rewarded and the reprehensible get their comeuppance - could have come straight from the pen of Somerset Maugham.
Now I didn't let on about this at the meeting but Somerset Maugham and I have something in common. Last year I wrote an article for the British Journal of Wellbeing called Time to write the next book. I don't mean to cause a distraction here so I'll put a link to the article at the end of this blog entry and you can click on it and read it at your leisure. The point is, Clive is anxious to break out of his rather old-fashioned style but, as there are probably few people writing in the tradition of Somerset Maugham these days, why shouldn't Clive be the one who picks up that particular baton?
There is an apocryphal story that Thomas Hardy (one of the greatest of English novelists and also one of England’s finest poets) wanted nothing more than to be remembered as an outstanding dramatist like his friend JM Barrie (one of Scotland's most successful novelists and playwrights in his time) who in turn berated himself for not being able to write poetry like Hardy. The moral of this story is that, if you’re brilliant enough to create a Far from the Madding Crowd or a Peter Pan, you should be pleased with your achievements. And if my Severn Valley Author friends insist on my being Wyre Forest’s answer to Garrison Keillor then I think Clive might settle for being the 21st century’s Somerset Maugham.