Which are your favorites among Maugham's short stories?
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So, I wonder how my list of favorites compares to those others might cite? Which are your favorite five (or if you must, more).
The man with the scar
The Portrait of a Gentleman
A Man from Glasgow
In a Strange Land
(Four out of five from Cosmopolitans, significantly.)
From Maugham's first five mature collections, six stories each, published between 1921 and 1933, and collected in East and West (1934, Altogether in England) I wouldn't want to be without even my least favourite one (which is Miss King from Ashenden, by the way).
Still, let me try one putative top ten, though with the firm statement that this is very, very limited number. Since I am a great fan of Maugham's short story collections as they were originally published - each one has its own character and charm - I would go through them, picking one, or at most two pieces, to compile this top ten. In more or less chronological order, my top ten looks thus:
The Fall of Edward Barnard (1921)
The Taipan (1922)
The Outstation (1924)
His Excellency (1927)
Mr Know-All (1929)
The Door of Opportunity (1931)
The Lotus Eater (1935)
Hell of a choice indeed! The years in brackets for the most part indicate the first appearance in magazine; so don't be puzzled that they don't match the years in which the collections themselves appeared. (Sometimes the difference exceeds a decade, as in the case of Louise for instance: it was first published in book form in 1936.) The Taipan is the only one which was never published in a short story collection, apart from The Collected Short Stories of course, but first appeared in Maugham's first mature travel book, On a Chinese Screen (1922).
To have some fun with the other extremity, I have a proposition for one and only one story which should be included in a putative anthology as best representative of Maugham's style and outlook. For me this is short story is Virtue; if it's too long for the editors: Louise or Mr Know-All.
I'm still searching for a cheaper local reprint.
The exotic tales are three full collections, six stories each - The Trembling of a Leaf (1921), The Casuarina Tree (1926) and Ah King (1933) - the first set in the South Seas and the rest in the Far East which is a little closer, at least from European point of view. There is one later exotic tale, Flotsam and Jetsam, which appeared much later in Creatures of Circumstance (1947). Even though these are only 19 stories, I find it impossible to make Top 5 - I might just as well take the complete Trembling of a Leaf save Honolulu. So here is my Top 10 of Maugham's exotic tales:
The Fall of Edward Barnard
The Force of Circumstance
The Door of Opportunity
The Back of Beyond
Of course there are several exotic stories among the Cosmopolitans but these really should be discussed separately. Much shorter and less complex, the 29 ''very short stories'' in this volume have nothing in common with Maugham's other collection. Yet there are such a huge fun that I find Top 5 to be impossible. So there's another Top 10, a very cosmopolitan one:
A Friend in Need
The Ant and the Grasshopper
The Wash Tub
From Maugham's early stories, nicely collected in Seventeen Lost Stories I can, for once, try a Top 5, for these certainly rather immature in comparison with his later masterpiece. Yet they make a jolly good read.
Cupid and the Vicar of Swale
A Point of Law
Lastly, there is one very disparate group that includes four full collections - Ashenden (1928, 6 stories) Six Stories in First Person Singular (1931), The Mixture as Before (1940) and Creatures of Circumstance (1947, save Flotsam and Jetsam) - and seven pieces from Maugham's travel that were reprinted in any of his collections but did find place in The Complete Short Stories (1951). Altogether 43 short stories here, and even Top 15 would be a hard one to compile. But let's try one Top 10:
(from the travel books)
A Marriage of Convenience
(from the collections)
The Human Element
The Lotus Eater
A Man with a Conscience
The Facts of Life
The Happy Couple
Much too many favourites had to be left out.:(
THE LOTUS EATERS
The last two probably subject to change pending my re-examination of the whole collection.